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Vico and the Transformation of Rhetoric in Early Modern Europe

  • Date Published: January 2014
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107646728

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About the Authors
  • Considered the most original thinker in the Italian philosophical tradition, Giambattista Vico has been the object of much scholarly attention but little consensus. In this new interpretation, David L. Marshall examines the entirety of Vico’s oeuvre and situates him in the political context of early modern Naples. He demonstrates Vico’s significance as a theorist who adapted the discipline of rhetoric to modern conditions. Marshall presents Vico’s work as an effort to resolve a contradiction. As a professor of rhetoric at the University of Naples, Vico had a deep investment in the explanatory power of classical rhetorical thought, especially that of Aristotle, Cicero, and Quintilian. Yet as a historian of the failure of Naples as a self-determining political community, he had no illusions about the possibility or worth of democratic and republican systems of government in the post-classical world. As Marshall demonstrates, by jettisoning the assumption that rhetoric only illuminates direct, face-to-face interactions between orator and auditor, Vico reinvented rhetoric for a modern world in which the Greek polis and the Roman res publica are no longer paradigmatic for political thought.

    • A highly original interpretation of a major thinker
    • More comprehensive in its treatment of Vico than comparable works in English
    • Demonstrates why Vico is a transformational figure in the history of political thought from classical Greece and Rome to modern Europe
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    Reviews & endorsements

    “Marshall’s book on Vico is very original. Almost every master concept of Vico’s thought is visited and interpreted in a personal way: the verum-factum principle, Providence’s meaning, ingegno, the art of etymology, “degnità” or axioms, “poetic wisdom,” and “the true Homer.” Particularly interesting are the parts on the relation between orator and audience, the discovery of implicit parallels between ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Naples, and the role of the piazza. Very impressive is Marshall’s thesis that Vico theorized the transposition of topics to experimental natural philosophy. Usually Vichian scholars have always denied that, according to Vico, man can be said to know nature. On this account, however, Vico’s verum-factum principle is no longer incapable of being applied to the study of physical phenomena. These audacious perspectives deserve great attention.” – Andrea Battistini, University of Bologna

    “In his landmark book Vico and the Transformation of Rhetoric in Early Modern Europe, David Marshall demonstrates that Vico is once again pivotal in a modern age broadly conceived, where sober sciences newly engage the irrationalisms of emotion, language, and human history. We can now celebrate the first major, English-language monograph on Vico in more than a decade at the same time that we enjoy expert guidance through a range of concerns that traverse Vico’s work; Marshall’s book serves as an excellent primer on the interlocking fields of modern epistemology after Descartes, the prehistory of Peircean pragmatism, early modern European intellectual history across four literatures (English, German, French, and Italian), and the history of rhetoric, which serves as a key to the rest. This is a deeply responsible book that moves chronologically through Vico’s entire oeuvre – including some notable rediscoveries in the archives and beyond – at the same time that it honors the weirdness that makes Vico indispensable.” – Daniel M. Gross, University of California, Irvine

    “This book is one of a kind. That Vico was a professor of rhetoric, wrote a textbook on rhetoric, and taught rhetoric throughout his long career is frequently forgotten as a key to understanding his work. Although several authors have given significant attention to the rhetorical basis of Vico’s thought, none have placed Vico at the center of the development of rhetoric in the modern period, as Marshall’s study does. The reader of this work gains a full, original, and rewarding account of Vico’s place in intellectual history that is not to be found elsewhere and done in a manner that is a pleasure to read.” - Donald Phillip Verene, Charles Howard Candler Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, Director, Institute of Vico Studies, Emory University

    "...intriguing and excellent book, a work which is certainly becoming one of the most important monographs of Vico scholarship for many years, and is likely to remain so for many years to come..." -Endre Szécsényi, Canadian Journal of History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: January 2014
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107646728
    • length: 312 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.46kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction
    2. At the limits of classical rhetoric
    3. Redacting the art of persuasion
    4. An epistemic rhetoric
    5. Towards a hermeneutic theory of law and culture
    6. The new science of rhetoric
    7. Conclusion.

  • Author

    David L. Marshall, Kettering University, Michigan
    David L. Marshall is Assistant Professor of Humanities at Kettering University. He has contributed to the Bollettino del Centro di Studi Vichiani, Napoli Nobilissima, New Vico Studies, and the Intellectual History Review.

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