Nicolaus Caussin's Eloquentia sacrae et humaneae parellela (1619) forges a distinctly modern history of rhetoric that ties discourse to culture. What were the conditions that made this new history of rhetoric possible? Marc Fumaroli has argued that political exigency in Cardinal Richelieu's France demanded a reconciliation of divergent religious and secular forms of eloquence that implicated, in turn, a newly “eclectic” history of rhetoric. But political exigency alone does not account for this nascent pluralism; we also need to look at the internal dynamics of rhetorical theory as it moved across literate cultures in Europe. With this goal in mind, I first demonstrate in this article how textbooks after the heady days of Protestant Reformation in Germany tried in vain to systematize the passions of art, friendship, and politics. Partially in response to this failure, I then argue, there emerged in France a new rhetoric sensitive to the historical contingency of passionate situations. My claim is not simply that rhetoric is bound to be temporal and situational, but more precisely that Caussin initiates historical rhetorics: the capacity to theorize how discourse is bound to culture in its plurality and historical contingency.
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