IMC 2006: Sessions

Session 1122: In Your Face: Confrontational Rhetoric and the Poetics of Aggression

Wednesday 12 July 2006, 11.15-12.45

Organiser:Päivi Mehtonen, Department of Literature & the Arts, University of Tampere
Moderator/Chair:Lars Boje Mortensen, Centre for Medieval Studies, Universitetet i Bergen
Paper 1122-aAd hominem: Violence and Satire in Anselm of Besate's Rhetorimachia
(Language: English)
Monika Otter, Department of English, Dartmouth College, New Hampshire
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Rhetoric
Paper 1122-bA Poetics of Obscenity and Furious Narration: Warner of Rouen's Moriuht
(Language: English)
Päivi Mehtonen, Department of Literature & the Arts, University of Tampere
Index terms: Language and Literature - Latin, Rhetoric
Paper 1122-c'Pulling Atweyne': The 'Pure Tene' of Piers Plowman
(Language: English)
Noëlle Phillips, Department of English, University of British Columbia
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Rhetoric

Abstract paper -a: Anselm of Besate’s Rhetorimachia is both frustrating and fascinating to modern readers: it is lively and boring, scurrilous and pedantic all at once. Passing seamlessly from an analysis of stylistic faults to accusations of debauchery and murder, it fuses ethics and stylistics, rhetorical instruction and hard-hitting invective as if there were no discrepancy between them at all. Its genre and tone are so hard to place that most scholars have passed it by in annoyed silence. This paper proposes to sort out some of the presuppositions that facilitate the passage between solecism and crime, bantering and aggression, verbal and physical action. In particular, it will examine the aggressive speech act as a fictional, ‘improper’ and hence licensed performance.

Abstract paper -b: This paper examines the narrative structure of the 11th-century Latin satire Moriuht by Warner of Rouen. The text features a pugnacious narrator and takes as its protagonist an adulterer and self-proclaimed poet, Moriuht. The narrative functions simultaneously as an obscene and entertaining story (the poet-character’s lewd life), as a lesson on morality (by the aggressively patronising narrator), and as the narrator’s commentary on poetics and auctores. The interaction of these textual layers importantly anticipates the later, more famous Latin artes poeticae of the 12th and 13th centuries.

Abstract paper -c: The Plowing of the Half-Acre and Truth’s Pardon scenes in Langland’s Piers Plowman are two of the poem’s most intriguing passages. While there has been excellent scholarly attention paid to the text’s various social, allegorical, and theological themes, there has been little said about how Langland uses Piers’ quickly-fired anger to nuance these scenes. The ‘pure tene’ that Piers exhibits is often considered an allegorical reflection of Christ’s or Moses’ righteous anger, thus obscuring the significance of the anger itself. By examining these outbursts of anger as important moments of confrontation rather than simply as allegory, this paper contends that Piers’ wrath is an ethically ambiguous tool, first used to fortify the community built up in the poem, and then to tear it apart. It is the dreamer, not Piers, whose voice attempts to overshadow these uneasy scenes of anger and broken community, and to interpret them for us in a theologically and socially satisfactory manner.