By Harry Blamires (auth.)
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11 24 A HISTORY OF LITERARY CRITICISM Thus Rhetoric is a powerful force to arouse emotion and to inspire to action, but her vesture and equipment resemble a firework display. She is like a walking thunderstorm emitting kaleidoscopic coruscations. 2 The Middle Ages The centuries between the fall of the Roman Empire in the west and the Renaissance are loosely called the 'Middle Ages'. Waves of barbarian invaders, Goths, Huns and Vandals, swept over the imperial frontiers in the last decades of the fourth century AD until Alaric, King of the Visigoths, eventually captured and sacked Rome itself in the last year of his life, 410.
It became a model for the high style, and C. S. Lewis called it 'the most agonisingly rhetorical book' ever written. It is basically a treatise on the seven liberal arts, and in the central books of the work they appear personified. The work as a whole is a hotchpotch, packed with indigestible learning, fantastic narrative, and encyclopaedic catalogues. What is notable about the book for the modern student is that the laborious extravagances of style match the author's theme, and his personification of Rhetoric underlines the decadent concept of what literature is all about.
And as the work of Aquinas brought the best of ancient philosophy into the service of THE MIDDLE AGES 43 Christianity, so the work of Dante affected a transference of theology into artistic equivalents. l313-1375), the poet and story-teller, in his Commento on Dante's work, pushed what Dante said in the Preface cited above to its logical conclusion. Just as the Scriptures present the divine truths of incarnation and redemption in narratives, visions, and the like, so classical poetry with its fictions of gods may convey moral truths.
A History of Literary Criticism by Harry Blamires (auth.)