ABSTRACT

This article treats the idea of consilium as a concept in the rhetoric of the Western Middle Ages. The tradition of civic oratory in antiquity was associated with the deliberative genre, and civic speech was perpetuated in the Middle Ages but manifested itself as consilium. In the letters of Fulbert of Chartres, the rhetorical commentaries of Thierry of Chartres, and the rhetorical treatises of Albertanus of Brescia and Brunetto Latini, the concept of consilium (“counsel”) systematically describes persuasive human interaction to address deliberative uncertainty about future civic decisions. Medieval rhetoricians use the term consilium both synonymously with deliberation and to describe an activity of persuasion that is akin to deliberative oratory. In rhetorical texts describing the practice of counsel in the Middle Ages, we see a transition from counsel as a subject of rhetorical theory to counsel as a public practice.

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