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Outlaw Rhetoric

Figuring Vernacular Eloquence in Shakespeare's England

by Jenny C. Mann

Publication Year: 2012

A central feature of English Renaissance humanism was its reverence for classical Latin as the one true form of eloquent expression. Yet sixteenth-century writers increasingly came to believe that England needed an equally distinguished vernacular language to serve its burgeoning national community. Thus, one of the main cultural projects of Renaissance rhetoricians was that of producing a "common" vernacular eloquence, mindful of its classical origins yet self-consciously English in character. The process of vernacularization began during Henry VIII's reign and continued, with fits and starts, late into the seventeenth century. However, as Jenny C. Mann shows in Outlaw Rhetoric, this project was beset with problems and conflicts from the start.

Outlaw Rhetoric examines the substantial and largely unexplored archive of vernacular rhetorical guides produced in England between 1500 and 1700. Writers of these guides drew on classical training as they translated Greek and Latin figures of speech into an everyday English that could serve the ends of literary and national invention. In the process, however, they confronted aspects of rhetoric that run counter to its civilizing impulse. For instance, Mann finds repeated references to Robin Hood, indicating an ongoing concern that vernacular rhetoric is "outlaw" to the classical tradition because it is common, popular, and ephemeral. As this book shows, however, such allusions hint at a growing acceptance of the nonclassical along with a new esteem for literary production that can be identified as native to England. Working across a range of genres, Mann demonstrates the effects of this tension between classical rhetoric and English outlawry in works by Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Jonson, and Cavendish. In so doing she reveals the political stakes of the vernacular rhetorical project in the age of Shakespeare.

Published by: Cornell University Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xiv

The research and writing of this book have been made possible by the support of family, friends, colleagues, and teachers, and I am glad to have the opportunity to thank them here. ...

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Introduction: A Tale of Robin Hood

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pp. 1-28

Richard Sherry’s A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes (1550), only the second rhetorical manual to be published in the vernacular, begins by imagining its own rejection by English readers. “Doubt not but that the title of this treatise all straunge vnto our Englyshe eares, wil cause some men at the fyrst syghte to maruayle what the matter of it should meane: ...

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1. Common Rhetoric: Planting Figures of Speech in the English Shire

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pp. 29-54

Walter Haddon’s dedication to Thomas Wilson’s Arte of Rhetoric (1560) imagines the translation of rhetoric into English as a modest woman’s journey to a new country. ...

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2. The Trespasser: Displacing Virgilian Figures in Spenser’s Faerie Queene

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pp. 55-86

In considering the ancient art of rhetoric’s passion for classification, Roland Barthes observes, “tell me how you classify and I’ll tell you who you are.” This gnomic promise suggests that we can discover a certain truth of identity in the taxonomic decisions made by different rhetorical cultures. ...

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3. The Insertour: Putting the Parenthesis in Sidney’s Arcadia

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pp. 87-117

Anne Bradstreet’s “Elegie upon that Honourable and Renowned Knight, Sir Philip Sidney” (1638) itemizes the noble achievements we have come to expect from descriptions of England’s shepherd-knight, presenting a soldier and a poet who successfully navigates the competing challenges of otium (leisure) and negotium (employment):1 ...

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4. The Changeling: Mingling Heroes and Hobgoblins in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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pp. 118-145

Though brief, the following passage from Puttenham’s Arte returns us to two of my most important arguments. In describing the figure hypallage, Puttenham writes, ...

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5. The Figure of Exchange: Gender Exchange in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 20 and Jonson’s Epicene

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pp. 146-170

The word “case” provides a common lexical ground for grammatical, legal, and erotic concerns in the early modern period. Thus in Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, as the villain Cloten attempts to rouse Imogen from her chamber, he mutters, “I will make / One of her women lawyer to me, for / I yet not understand the case myself.”1 ...

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6. The Mingle-Mangle: The Hodgepodge of Fancy and Philosophy in Cavendish’s Blazing World

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pp. 171-200

In the following passage from the Institutio oratoria, Quintilian coins the word sardismos to name a stylistic vice otherwise known by the Greek term soraismus, which refers to the mixture of different languages within a single speech. In defining this form of linguistic abuse, Quintilian writes, ...

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Conclusion: “Words Made Visible” and the Turn against Rhetoric

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pp. 201-218

Cicero begins his De inventione worrying about rhetoric’s influence on civil society, confessing that “I have often seriously debated with myself whether men and communities have received more good or evil from oratory and a consuming devotion to eloquence. ...

Appendix of English Rhetorical Manuals

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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-236


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pp. 237-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780801464102
E-ISBN-10: 0801464102
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801449659
Print-ISBN-10: 0801449650

Page Count: 249
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: 1

OCLC Number: 781542958
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Outlaw Rhetoric

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • English literature -- Early modern, 1500-1700 -- History and criticism.
  • Eloquence in literature.
  • Figures of speech in literature.
  • National characteristics, English, in literature.
  • Rhetoric, Renaissance -- England.
  • English language -- Rhetoric -- Handbooks, manuals, etc. -- Early works to 1800.
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