Abstract This paper presents a critical assessment of Vives's major rhetorical treatise, De ratione dicendi (1533). In terms of structure it shows that the first book is concerned with the linguistic basis of style, that the second deals with the qualities of style, the four aims of rhetoric, decorum and disposition and that the third presents guidance on composing ten genres of writing practised by humanists. The paper describes Vives's original contributions to the analysis of the linguistic basis of style, the qualities of style, emotional manipulation, decorum, and the composition of history and commentary. In assessing Vives's work it makes comparisons with rhetoric texts by Agricola, Erasmus, Melanchthon, and Ramus. It finds that Vives's reform of rhetoric is based in his encyclopaedic grasp of human learning but that this very encyclopaedism can cause weaknesses in his discussions of particular topics. De ratione dicendi tells us a great deal about Vives's perceptiveness and breadth of reading but, with only three sixteenth century editions, it was not a successful textbook.
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