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Masterclass – Professor Peter Mack (University of Warwick)

Date: 17 November 2017
Time: 12:00-14:15, followed by Erasmus Birthday Lecture at 16:15.
Venue: Trippenhuis, KNAW
Open to: RMa students, graduate students
Credits: 1 ECTS (available upon request)
Coordination: Arnoud Visser
Registration: Register before: 1 November
Register here (NB: and also at KNAW for the Erasmus Birthday Lecture: Chantal Bax: (or register through

This class will examine the possibility of using the doctrines of rhetoric not for generating new texts but for analysing existing texts and images. Rhetoric invites us to think about the relationship between speaker, audience and subject-matter and provides a range of techniques for finding ideas and words suitable for persuading that audience. The class will  consider the possible hermeneutic applications of a range of rhetorical teachings and will discuss the interpretation of a renaissance poem, a scene from Hamlet, passages from Salman Rushdie’s  The Moor’s Last Sigh, and paintings by Rembrandt (Bathsheba, 1654, Louvre) and Cézanne (Mont St Victoire, 1904-6, Zurich) in this light.

Peter Mack is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick and former Director of the Warburg Institute, London. He is a world-leading scholar in the field of Renaissance rhetoric and dialectic. His publications include Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Rhetoric and Dialectic (1993), Elizabethan Rhetoric (2002), Reading and Rhetoric in Montaigne and Shakespeare (2010), and A History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380-1620 (2011).

The seminar is organised in conjunction with the (public) Erasmus Birthday Lecture by Prof. Mack “‘Paraphrase, Paradox and Amplification in Agricola and Erasmus”. Abstract: The 38th Erasmus Birthday Lecture lecture will be concerned with Erasmus’s Paraphrases on the New Testament (1517-24), especially the paraphrases on Romans and Mark. It will consider the ways in which the Paraphrases and their paratexts make use of rhetorical techniques described in De copia (1512) and De ratione studii (1511). It will discuss the ways in which Erasmus reads the Bible texts and makes them available to his imagined audience. It will compare the Paraphrases with Rudolph Agricola’s Oration on Christ’s Nativity (1484) and Philipp Melanchthon’s Loci Communes (1521). The lecture was conceived as a tribute to Fokke Akkermann (1930-2017), teacher of Latin in Groningen, pioneering Agricola scholar, editor and translator of Spinoza, and long-term collaborator of the Erasmus edition. Both events are organised by the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), the Erasmus of Rotterdam Society, het Neolatinistenverband and Huygens ING.

Day planning (incl. coffee and tea, and lunch breaks)

12:00 – Start masterclass (Trippenhuis)
12:45 – Lunch with participants
1:30 – Continuation masterclass
2:15 – End
4:00 – Start Erasmus Birthday Lecture (VOC-zaal, Oost-Indisch Huis, Kloveniersburgwal 48, 1012 CX Amsterdam)

Preparation and proposed readings:
TBA – The teacher will provide all participants with around 50 pages of material to read in preparation for the class.

Selected participants will receive 1 ECTS: Careful preparation of the assigned literature and active participation are required, as well as attendance of the Erasmus Birthday Lecture.
Participants can earn 2 ECTS if they write a research paper about an aspect of the seminar theme (3000 words) [on request and in consultation with the coordinators].

Submit to; deadline: 1 November
NB: also submit your application to the KNAW via Sophie van den Bergh (

Credits & certificate:
Certificates of participation and credits are available upon request after the event. Event coordinators will decide whether the participant has fulfilled all requirements for the ECTS. Please direct your request to and include the postal address you want the certificate to be sent to. Note: the certificate itself is not valid as ECTS, you  need to validate it yourself at your local Graduate School.