With an unusually broad scope encompassing how Europeans taught and learned reading and writing at all levels, Classroom Commentaries: Teaching the Poetria Nova across Medieval and Renaissance Europe provides a synoptic picture of medieval and early modern instruction in rhetoric, poetics, and composition theory and practice. As Marjorie Curry Woods convincingly argues, the decision of Geoffrey of Vinsauf (fl. 1200) to write his rhetorical treatise in verse resulted in a unique combination of rhetorical doctrine, poetic examples, and creative exercises that proved malleable enough to inspire teachers for three centuries. Based on decades of research, this book excerpts, translates, and analyzes teachers’ notes and commentaries in the more than two hundred extant manuscripts of the text. We learn the reasons for the popularity of the Poetria nova among medieval and early Renaissance teachers, how prose as well as verse genres were taught, why the Poetria nova was a required text in central European universities, its attractions for early modern scholars and historians, and how we might still learn from it today. Woods’ monumental achievement will allow modern scholars to see the Poetria nova as earlier Europeans did: a witty and perennially popular text central to the experience of almost every student.
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Marjorie Curry Woods is professor of English and comparative literature at The University of Texas at Austin.Review:
“Woods knows more about the teaching of rhetoric in late medieval education than anyone else. She is a scholar of immense generosity. Vast amounts of difficult material are lucidly repacked with rigorous accuracy. Despite the intensity and depth of the scholarship, the resultant book is a pleasure to read, a real delight.” —James Simpson, Douglas P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English, Harvard University
“It is a rare privilege to be able to call a book ‘magisterial,’ but Marjorie Curry Woods’s work merits no less a designation. This is the summation of many years’ work in the archives. Woods has achieved an almost impossible balance between the highest level of scholarship and the greatest degree of accessibility.” —Rita Copeland, Kahn Endowed Term Professor in Humanities and professor of classical studies, English, and comparative literature, University of Pennsylvania
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