This study examines the rhetorical structure of the Decem libri historiarum of Gregory of Tours. Whereas previous studies have drawn attention to Gregory's habit of pairing parallel narrative threads for the purpose of comparing what he considered to be appropriate and inappropriate behavior, the inconsistencies in that rhetorical strategy (e.g., lack of criticism for Clovis' parricidal policies of expansion and uncharacteristic moments of praise for Chilperic, the “Herod and Nero” of Gregory's lifetime) have been attributed to Gregory's penchant for the ironic or satirical. This study takes the view that Gregory purposefully constructed complicated, and at times contradictory, profiles for the dramatis personae of his history in order to generate a sense of suspended judgment for which he would become the ultimate arbiter at the end of an individual's life. This style of narrating the lives of individuals made Gregory himself a dramatis persona in his own history by investing him with absolute interpretative authority and authority over the construction of historical memory. Gregory's careful development of that authority was itself a strategy for survival in a very fluid, and often volatile, political environment.
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Research Article| June 01 2020
Gregory of Tours and the Decem Libri Historiarum between Religious Belief and Rhetorical Habit
Studies in Late Antiquity (2020) 4 (2): 153–184.
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M. Shane Bjornlie; Gregory of Tours and the Decem Libri Historiarum between Religious Belief and Rhetorical Habit. Studies in Late Antiquity 1 June 2020; 4 (2): 153–184. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sla.2020.4.2.153
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