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Rhetoricians In Black: Benedictine Monks And Rhetorical Revival In Medieval Oxford

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Chapter Summary

After a long hiatus, Latin composition textbooks began to be written in England and especially in Oxford in the second half of the fourteenth century, when the number of Benedictine monks sent to study at the university increased significantly. This chapter mentions a sequence of brief texts on prose style that appears in a number of fifteenth-century manuscripts, including several of Benedictine provenance. Many such treatises are attributed to Benedictine authors or survive in manuscripts that can be traced to major Benedictine houses. The rhetorical treatises associated with monks who studied and taught at Oxford are distinguished above all by their literary emphasis and their conscious antiquarianism. Oxford-trained monks drew on their rhetorical training to supervise the training of young monks, handle the chapter's correspondence and chronicle its history, participate in theological controversies, and even compose poetry in Latin and the vernacular.

Keywords: Benedictine monks; Latin composition textbooks; Oxford-trained monks; rhetoricians



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