Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Nozomu Yamada: Pelagius’ Narrative Techniques – Rhetorical Influences and Negative Responses from Opponents

The aims of this presentation are to describe Pelagius’ narrative techniques and their rhetorical influences on his followers, and then to clarify why his opponents responded negatively to his rhetorical assertions. I will focus on two kinds of rhetoric used by Pelagius. One of them is the same-person narrative in his Pauline commentaries. Here, Pelagius overlays the subject of himself onto the subject of Paul’s text, and simultaneously overlays a third subject, that of the text readers. That is, Paul’s ‘I’ sees his opponents at this time; Pelagius’ ‘I’ sees the negative circumstances persisting in the Roman churches of his day; and the reader’s ‘I’ sees her or his personal situation that is to be overcome. The other rhetorical technique I will explore is the classical method of reasoning ‘from the minor to the major’. Pelagius used these two narrative techniques to encourage his followers.

Such rhetorical techniques played a very important role in intensifying the will of Pelagius’ followers, particularly Roman women Christians. However, at the same time, Pelagius’ narrative rhetoric was misunderstood and in some cases intentionally distorted, and came to be considered ‘heretical’ assertions by his opponents in polemical contexts. For example, in the proceedings of the Synod of Diospolis, only a part of his rhetorical narratives was cited and attacked sarcastically. His opponents often separated his work from their original contexts, in which Pelagius criticized the excessive immorality he saw in the very inside of the Roman churches.

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