Bona stultitia. O znaczeniu paradoksów retorycznych w najstarszym żywocie św. Wojciecha
Bona stultitia. On the Meaning of Rhetorical Paradoxes in the Oldest Life of St. Adalbert
The author of the oldest extant (so-called imperial or “A”) edition of Vita prior sancti Adalberti appreciated rhetorical paradoxes, as evidenced upon those numerous occasions when he reached for concise oxymorons, such as bona stultitia, pius error, mala uenia or damna uictoriae. This stylistic predilection was quite common and it has been noticed that during the Early Middle Ages many hagiographers observed it, especially in order to emphasise opposites characteristic for their religious world outlook, and, predominantly, evocatively to oppose the divine (eternal, perfect) and the human (precarious, deformed). A considerable fragment of the paradoxes found in Vita prior also expresses this notion. Nonetheless, their author does not appear to have been exclusively a passive imitator of literary tradition. His paradoxes – only partly identified in existing publications on the subject – do not merely document his literary skill and erudition. The function they fulfill in Vita i.e. their, at times, blatant message, the link with the main protagonist, and the important theses of the argument compel us to suspect that the hagiographer attached also an extra-aesthetic significance to his paradoxes. At the very least some of them should be interpreted in connection with his sceptical stand towards the learnedness of the period (contrasted with the true wisdom of God).
This approach is accentuated in the titular bona stultitia and probably also in the hagiographer’s other paradoxes, discreetly undermining uncritical trust in the wisdom of temporal logic. True, the critique of earthly wisdom had a long tradition, in particular in the monastic milieu, but during the Ottonian period it became the object of a controversy even, as The Life of Saint Wojciech (Adalbert) by Bruno of Querfurt demonstrates, within that particular environment. Herein lies an explanation of the fact that the hagiographer proposed to his readers an otherwise unoriginal thesis in a rather subtle manner, aggravating them with his paradoxes, and depicting St. Wojciech as endowed with the wisdom of God and not solely earthly wisdom. An analysis of some of the rhetorical figures used by the hagiographer also offers a number of important premises for research focused on a critique of the text of Vita.
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