Thomas Edward Clemens

A rhetoric of early Anglo-Saxon law: A revisionary interpretation of the interrelationships among rhetor, audience, and culture

Thomas Edward Clemens

  • School: Purdue University (0183)
  • Degree: Ph.D.
  • Date: 1996; pp: 454
  • Advisor: Lauer, Janice M.
  • Source: DAI-A 58/03, p. 853, Sep 1997
  • Subjects: Language, Rhetoric And Composition (0681); Law (0398)
  • ProQuest Document Number:
  • ISBN: 0-591-34399-1
  • UMI Number: AAT 9725529

Abstract:

    This study reconstructs the rhetorics implied in the declared law and the legal process of the early Anglo-Saxons from the sixth and seventh centuries. The aim is to explore the role rhetoric played in the legitimation of cultural arrangements and material conditions. The method was based on an analysis of how legal privileges and prohibitions were assigned in the form of legal rhetor positions and audience positions across the social identities of class, gender, and race. The legal privileges and prohibitions are related to the differentiation of material conditions among social groups. The study shows that the Anglo-Saxon legal process was constituted in part from tension between two rhetorical traditions: customary legal rhetorical practice in which all freemen in assemblies participated in judicial judgments and the Roman legal rhetoric introduced by the Christian church in which the ruler was represented as ultimate judge. The tension between these two traditions and contention over class and gender privileges were constitutive of Anglo-Saxon rhetorical practice. As the legal authority of the Church grew, the laws reflected greater standardization of procedure, more reliance on the king’s centralized authority, and the reduction of the power of the kinship system. In spite of this trend, the application of law on the local level remained public and rhetorical, but male.