Planting Figures of Speech in the English Shire
This chapter examines the rhetorical operations whereby the vernacular language and the island of England become figures for one another, with particular emphasis on the spatialization of discourse within the art of rhetoric. It shows how English manuals draw on the spatial imaginary provided by the ancient art of rhetoric to localize that discursive space as a particularly English place. By fostering the use of a “common” language identifiable with a “common” land that together constitutes an English commonweal, the vernacular rhetorical guides undermine the rhetorical art. The chapter also considers two manuals of rhetoric in English that incorporate an image of vagrancy into a retold history of rhetoric, one by Thomas Wilson and another by George Puttenham. Finally, it explains how rhetoric systematizes its own theory of discourse by artificially dividing content from form and analyzes the commonplaces and the figures of speech within the terms of this dichotomy.
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