Prose Style

Gregory Hays

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Prose Style

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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In analyzing medieval Latin prose, one should think not in terms of a monolithic “medieval” style, but rather of a wide range of styles and stylistic devices that an author may employ or discard from work to work, or even within a single work. The choice of a style may be influenced by content, but is not dictated by it. Above all, the use of a given stylistic feature is meaningful only within a system of conventional expectations that links author and audience. Late antique grammarians identified rhetorical figures and laid down rules on spelling and usage, but their focus was on verse rather than prose. Medieval handbooks of prose composition are late and limited to particular genres. A prose work may be divided by verse interludes, in the mixed form known as prosimetrum. Ludwig Traube famously observed that there is no such thing as “medieval Latin” and that, consequently, there can be no grammar or dictionary of it. The same is true of medieval Latin prose style.

Keywords: Latin prose; medieval style; prosimetrum; Ludwig Traube; medieval Latin

Article.  10562 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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