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Reviewed by:
  • Ejercicios de Retórica
  • Edward V. George
Alfonso de Torres . Ejercicios de Retórica. Ed. Violeta Pérez Custodio. Palmyrenvs Collección de textos y estudios Humanísticos Serie Textos. Madrid: Editorial del Laberinto, 2005. 400 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. €42. ISBN: 84-8483-188-4.

Another work by one of rhetoric bibliographer James J. Murphy's "One thousand neglected authors" emerges from the shadows. Alfonso de Torres (pre-1524-84) spent his whole career at the University of Alcalá de Henares, where he occupied the chairs of grammar (1546-70) and rhetoric (1560-84). Pérez presents the Latin text, with a Spanish translation and copious annotations, of Torres's Rhetoricae exercitationes, working from the 1569 Alcalá edition as the sole source. [End Page 1209] The Ejercicios is a pedagogical tool organized around the structure of Aphthonius's progymnasmata, from which the titles of Torres's fourteen "Exercises" are derived: Fabula, Sententia, Refutatio, Confirmatio, Laus, and Vituperatio, to mention a few. Every step of the way, Pérez discloses voluminously the origins of the bulk of Torres's material: Athenaeus, Erasmus, Poliziano, Palmireno, and others swell the rolls of those to whom Torres owes a debt.

Pérez's introduction covers Torres's biography and teaching career, a survey of the progymnasmata from antiquity through the sixteenth century, in the end focusing on Spain, an analysis of the Ejercicios, a ten-page bibliography, and indices of names and rhetorical terms. The historical progymnasmata survey (xliv-lvix), a singularly comprehensible and compact tour through the thicket of sources, byways, and secondary literature, merits translation into English as an article or a booklet. Pérez explores Torres's heavy but unacknowledged reliance on the frequently printed Aphthonii sophistae progymnasmata (ci-cv) of the German Reinhard Lorich (first appearance, Frankfurt 1553). The reason for the suppression: Lorich was a Lutheran pastor with a chair at Marburg, "the first Protestant university, founded by Philip of Hesse, leader of a league of princes who rebelled against Charles V" (ci). Pérez records Lorich's appearances in indices librorum prohibitorum, and cites for comparison a contemporary of Torres at Alcalá, who likewise borrowed from Erasmus and Melanchthon without attribution.

The treatment (both in Torres and in Pérez's editing) of Fabula introduces the reader to Torres's pedagogical skill. Fabulae form childhood "windows to a better way of living" (54). Well-known examples (such as Menenius Agrippa's "body and the limbs") precede the definition ("a fictitious narrative which nevertheless expresses a truth" [63]), which in Aphthonius opens the discussion. The examples are appropriated from Lorich's scholia. Remarkably, the Iliad — the whole Iliad — whose moral is that lust can lead to calamity, and the Odyssey, which presents a paragon of virtue and a living example of a sage, are "fables." Pérez documents meticulously the origin of Torres's ideas in Aphthonius and Lorich, implicitly crediting Torres with their fusion. Torres continues with excursions into Aesopic collections and, finally, demonstrates a variety of ways to explicate the point of the Homeric poems.

The chapter on the locus communis, "a text which amplifies the positive or negative aspects existing in a thing or a person" ("oratio quae bona aut mala alicui rei aut personae existentia amplificat" [214-15]), reinforces the impression that Torres knows how to lay out a lesson with clarity and appeal. The witty (and unexampled, to Pérez's knowledge) tale of Archetimus and Cydias — about a conniving hypocrite who is suddenly thwarted in court as he attempts to cheat an acquaintance out of a cache of gold left in the villain's charge — draws the reader along. Talking points are provided for the prosecution of the swindler: resistance to pity, observance of the law, justice, and the aftereffects of the court's decision.

The book is clearly meant for direct use by students. It does not feature advice to the instructor on how to proceed. The Latin is simple and transparent, as demonstrated startlingly by the stylistic contrast between the limpid Ejercicios [End Page 1210] proper, and Torres's own interminable dedicatory epistle, where the first sentence runs ten lines and the strenuous pursuit of embellishment never...


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pp. 1209-1211
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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