This article, an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Translation and the Rediscovery of Rhetoric, traces the surprising role of translation and of translatio (the medieval trope referring to the transfer of knowledge across time and space) in the story of Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s turn to rhetoric. Neither Perelman nor Olbrechts-Tyteca were well versed in the French tradition of rhetoric as poetics. However, in two lectures Perelman gave late in his life, he offered a surprising description of the influence of Jean Paulhan, the French literary critic and long-time director of the Nouvelle Revue française, and of thirteenth-century Italian author and notary Brunetto Latini, on the turn to rhetoric. In addition, this essay situates these lectures as a critical response to the claim made by three important French thinkers, Paul Ricoeur, Roland Barthes, and Gérard Genette, that they had recovered rhetoric for the study of expression and thus as poetics.

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