Friendship and Rhetoric in the Middle Ages: The Linguistic Performance of Intimacy from Cicero to Aelred covers approximately 1,200 years of literature. This is a book on "medieval literature" that foregrounds language as the agent for cultivating medieval friendship (from the first century BC to c. 1160 AD) in oratorical, ecclesiastical, monastic, and erotic contexts. Taking a different approach than many works in this area, which search for the lived experience of friends behind language, this book stands apart in looking at friendship's enactment through rhetorical language among classical and medieval authors.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Performing Friendship in Cicero's De amicitia
Chapter 2: Early Christian Friendship: Tradition and Innovation in the Fourth Century
Chapter 3: Making Love in Language: Friendship in the Carolingian Era
Chapter 4: The Drama of the Saints: Friendship in the Prayers and Letters of Anselm of Canterbury
Chapter 5: Rhetorical Friendship in the Letters of Heloise and Abelard
Chapter 6: The Ethics of Rhetoric and Friendship in the Epistolae duorum amantium
and Related Works
Chapter 7: "The Effort itself Is Great": Performance, Sympathy, and Authority in Aelred of Rievaulx's De spiritali amicitia
"In the age of Facebook, when people have hundreds of 'friends' they have never physically met, we are in a good position to revisit the ancient maxim that letters make the absent present. In this insightful study, R. Jacob McDonie argues that medieval friendship was at heart a rhetorical practice, pursued chiefly or even entirely through letter-writing. As Cicero above all taught his medieval readers, rhetoric cannot be separated from performance. Epistolary friendship, then, is a performative practice, using rhetorical gestures to take the place of the absent body. Yet McDonie never demeans his subjects by speaking of 'mere' performance, never makes the naïve mistake of assuming that rhetoric vitiates sincerity. This nuanced study of Latin friendship language from Cicero to Aelred of Rievaulx is a must for scholars of medieval friendship, rhetoric, and affect."
--Barbara Newman, Northwestern University