A New History of Orators


This part of the project, led by Estelle Doudet, aims to prepare a monograph titled The Age of Modern Orators. The Rise of Public Eloquence in French (1390-1560), to be published in English.

By the end of the twentieth century, the history of rhetoric had been successfully integrated into scholarship as an essential aspect of research on European literary and communicative cultures. However, its dominant narrative still focuses on the humanist revolution in Trecento and Quattrocento Italy and its enduring influence on other European regions. This new survey seeks to complexify the prevailing narrative by reassessing the specific situation of Francophone writers between 1390 and 1560.

Often practicing as lawyers, preachers, royal civil servants, or directors of theatrical companies, most French-speaking writers actively engaged in the rhetorical turn occured between the fourteenth and the sixteenth centuries. Committed to the public good, they claimed the new status of “modern orators” (J. Lemaire, 1511). This original authorship ideal adapted Ciceronian principles to vernacular culture and constituted an alternative to the Italian Neo-Latin model. It shaped a new vision of the practices and powers of eloquence that would exert a decisive influence on the public sphere of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Long overshadowed by the traditional periodization of the French Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the age of modern orators, lasting from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, appears crucial for the development of relations between rhetoric, literature and communication, and is yet to be fully explored.

The Bibliography section presents a list of preparatory studies for this book.