But while he certainly tries to minimize social asym metries in the exchange

But while he certainly tries to minimize social asym

This preview shows page 80 - 82 out of 233 pages.

social ingratiation. But while he certainly tries to minimize social asym- metries in the exchange patterns he promotes, Erasmus, always the thoroughgoing rhetorician, by no means discards strategies of ingratiat- ion. Indeed, as he develops his instructions for beginning a letter, the amount of attention he devotes to winning ‘‘over the good will of the person to whom we are writing’’ (  ) is astonishing. ¹⁸ If, for the rhetor- ician, persuasion requires the rhetorical construction of ethos to shape the writer’s image and pathos to shape the reader’s response, for Eras- mus, whose thinking is all the more bound up in dialogic exchange, persuasion requires the self-conscious construction of relationships. Friendship and intimate relations are immediately treated, in a surpris- ingly calculating way, not as pre-existent conditions that can be referred to in the letter but as discursive constructions that are to be built up according to alternative sets of strategies. If one’s ancestors had relations in common, for example, ‘‘[w]e must say that there was the deepest a ff ection and the closest intimacy between our ancestors and his, and that very many services were rendered on both sides; that this good will has been handed on to us in a hereditary succession and has never been neglected; that true a ff ection, which we imbibed with our nurse’s milk, as it were, has increased with years’’ (  ), and so on. But if no ancestral ties existed, ‘‘we shall say that it is those linked by no ties of friendship who like to recall the close bonds that existed between their ancestors’’ and trace how ‘‘at fi rst . . . similarity of abilities and interests brought young minds together in a unique atmosphere of warmth and a ff ec- tion,’’ then ‘‘close comradeship and mutual kindnesses,’’ and ‘‘ fi nally . . . admiration of each other’s good qualities’’ made friendship take root, ‘‘so that now nothing could be added to the store of bene fi ts or the measure of a ff ection attained’’ (  ). So copious is the store of praise and compliments that Erasmus pro ff ers to assist in the construction of friendly relations that any adequate sampling of its alternative strategies would over ow the boundaries of this chapter. Erasmus denounces attery, on the one hand, and provides his students, on the other hand, with proli fi c inventories for ingratiation. Noticing the contradiction, Alexander Dalzell tries to explain it by distinguishing between the salutation and body of the letter: First, Erasmus makes a distinction between what one can say in the salutation and what is appropriate in the body of the letter. Apparently it was much more o ff ensive to use attering terms in the heading than in the letter itself. This  Eloquent relations in letters
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conforms to the practice of Erasmus himself, who is generally fairly reserved about the salutation, but is quite prepared to pour on the attery in the text if the occasion demands it. ¹⁹
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