Modern Languages and Literatures, Department of


Date of this Version

October 1996


Published in Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition, edited by Theresa Enos (New York & London: Garland Publishing, 1996), pp. 544–547. A division of the Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


Seventeenth-Century French Jansenists, authors of the so-called Port-Royal Logic and Grammar. Of the many textbooks written by the Jansenists with ties to the monastery of Port-Royal near Paris, two have significant rhetorical implications: Antoine Arnauld's and Claude Lancelot's General Grammar (1660) and, especially, Arnauld's and Pierre Nicole's Logic or Art of Thinking (1662). The Logic privileges a spare style in which any recourse to the figures must be justified by the subject matter, a distrust of rhetorical methods of invention, and an ideal of transparent language. This approach is born of a convergence of Cartesian epistemology and an Augustinian stress on fallen human nature; its immediate impetus came from the pedagogical experience of the Little Schools run by the Solitaries, the men associated with the monastery, and from the polemics in defense of Jansenist theology, of which the Provincial Letters of Pascal (whom the Logic praises as having known as much about true rhetoric as anyone has ever known) are the best example.