The making of a uniquely American rhetoric
While rhetoric's prominent place in Renaissance Europ has justly received significant scholarly scrutiny, its arrival in the Americas remains one of the least-studied aspects of the discipline's long history. Describing rhetoric as central to many aspects of the European encounter with new people and places and as a subject of great complexity and variety, Don Paul Abbott fills this gap in rhetorical literature by analyzing the rhetorical dimensions of Spain's colonization of North and South America.
In Rhetoric in the New World, Abbott shows that when the literate culture of the Old World confronted the oral culture of the New, rhetoricians faced issues unanticipated by their classical predecessors and for which European experiences offered few insights. He reconstructs rhetoric's role in Spain's American empire, describing the colonies as the site of extraordinary conflicts between cultures, traditions, religions, and languages. According to Abbott, never before had rhetoric been required to confront peoples and places so apparently alien to its ancient Mediterranean origins.
Abbott contends that these conflicts infused colonial rhetoric with an urgency and intricacy often surpassing the academic contentiousness of European humanism. Abbott reveals the uniquely American rhetoric produced by this co-mingling of Old World and New rhetorical traditions through his case studies of such major colonial rhetoricians as Bernardino de Sahagún, Diego Valadés, José de Acosta, Bartolomé de las Casas, El Inca Carcilaso de la Vega, Guaman Poma de Ayala, and José de Arriaga.
Don Paul Abbott is associate professor of rhetoric at the University of California, Davis. He has published widely on Renaissance rhetoric and the rhetorical traditions of Spain and Latin America.