‘To live is glory and to die is gain’: The Use of Battle Rhetoric in the Narrative Construction of Crusading and Holy War, c. 1099-c.1222

Connor Wilson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis constitutes a comparative study of contextualised language, concerned with the recurring rhetorical form of the pre-battle harangue in Latin historical narratives. Focusing upon battle rhetoric produced in the context of the early crusadingmovement, it utilizes comparative non-crusading material from a long twelfth century. Centrally the dissertation challenges previous scholarship which understood battle rhetoric as providing a direct insight into the psychology of medieval soldiery, that was by and large generic in nature. Instead, this thesis contends that battle rhetoric was an ideal opportunity for authors to dynamically emphasise particular themes, present didactic lessons and explore ideas of virtue, justice and faith through direct speech at climactic moments. Chapter One explores the classical and scriptural underpinnings of the teaching and use of rhetoric in medieval western Europe and contextualizes the Roman tradition of rhetoric as it came down to the twelfth century. It displays how the rhetorical tradition which influenced medieval authors presented the ‘invention’ of orations as more than ornamentation, and that the aims of rhetoric to teach, move and please involved a commitment to truth, ethics and moral worthiness. The remainder of the thesis applies this understanding of rhetoric to orations from accounts detailing crusading expeditions of the twelfth century. Chapter Two examines one of the earliest accounts of the First Crusade, the Gesta Francoum, identifying the most significant themes and tropes of its orations. These themes and motivational appeals serve to structure a wider exploration of First Crusade sources in Chapter Three. Chapter Four and Five each focus on a
single text, concerned with the Second Crusade and the Third Crusade respectively. Alongside comparative material, these chapters chart the development or disappearance of particular ideas in battle rhetoric, and account for the shifting priorities and aims of oration authors into the early thirteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Jotischky, Andrew, Supervisor
Award date1 Jun 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018

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