"A learned work of rhetoric . . . compiled and made in the English tongue, of [one] who in judgment is profound, in wisdom and eloquence most famous." Thus in 1563 rhetorician Richard Rainolde praised The Art of Rhetoric, the work that brought into English the procedures of Ciceronian rhetoric-invention, disposition, style, memory, and delivery-the core of the academic curriculum in Renaissance England. Written in vigorous, native English, the Art went through eight editions between 1553 and 1585. At least part of its appeal was practicality. On the final page of his copy on Quintilian, Gabriel Harvey noted that The Art of Rhetoric is the "Daily bread of our common pleaders and discoursers." But its appeal was also academic. In 1619, nearly forty years after the Art had lapsed from print, John Milton's teacher Alexander Gill invoked Wilson as he ridiculed the affectations of pretentiously learned language.
Seen in its historical context, Wilson's The Art of Rhetoric reveals a great deal about the formal education of such authors as Shakespeare, Spenser, Jonson, and Milton. Since it bears directly on what is basic to imaginative literature-the art of language-the Art encapsulates a literary context relevant to all those studying the English Renaissance, whether their approach is historicist, structuralist, deconstructionist, or new historicist. In addition, it will be of interest to students of rhetoric, education, and intellectual history in general.
There have been four editions of the Art in the twentieth century: two facsimiles and two original-spelling texts, none of which is in print. Peter Medine's edition modernizes the spelling and punctuation of the text of the second edition, which Wilson revised and expanded in 1560, and furnishes a fully critical apparatus, including introduction, textual notes, commentary, and glossary. As such, this edition makes available a central work of the English Renaissance in an accessible format.
Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press
Number of pages: 336
Weight: 626 g
Dimensions: 229 x 152 x 25 mm
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