Rhetoric and Renaissance pastoral : eloquence outside the city walls

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2015-05

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Abstract

This dissertation considers the Renaissance literary pastoral landscape as a site for theorizing and imagining conversation in horizontally-oriented discursive communities. My project is modeled on Susan Jarratt's \emph{Rereading the Sophists} in that I locate a historical rhetorical practice as a model for feminist rhetoric. I argue that these pastoral conversations share the feminist concern of creating a space for the marginalized to speak that does not exclude the body, emotion and affect. These spaces also bridge the private and public spheres by creating protected discursive communities that simultaneously fashion public personae. While the post-Romantic pastoral landscape is a solitary space, in classical and Renaissance literature, the literary pastoral is communal. Ciceronian dialogues and pastoral eclogues overlap as the two Renaissance genres that employ the pastoral setting as a space for imagining conversation and dialogue at a remove from stratified society. I argue that Ciceronian dialogue and pastoral eclogues share an interest in theorizing about discursive spaces at a remove from the socio-political stratifications of the city. I coin the term "pastoral dialogue" to consider, not a unified discursive space, but a patchwork of related theoretical spaces. Next, I look at the myth of society's origins in Nicholas Grimald's sixteenth century translation of De Officiis to help locate a theory of rhetoric that emphasizes conversation over oratory. Finally, I turn to Edmund Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender and Moderata Fonte's Il Merito Delle Donne as examples of pastoral dialogues that borrow features from both pastoral eclogues and Ciceronian dialogues to create a horizontally-oriented discursive space that allows those marginalized by class or gender to develop their positions and identities through a personal conversation that also fashions their public personae.

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