Renæssanceforum 11 • 2016

Marc van der Poel
Topics and loci communes as Agents of Cultural Unity and Diversity

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Topical invention is a systematized method of finding arguments to discuss abstract, philosophical questions and specific questions determined by circumstances of time and space. It was developed in ancient Greece and Rome as the key instrument for producing and interpreting texts, and it continued to be used for similar purposes during the Middle Ages, with some important adaptations particularly in the context of the academic disputatio. In the Renaissance, the tools of topical invention - topics, loci communes and commonplaces - were universally applied in the teaching and practice of reading, writing and reasoning. The purpose of this contribution is to propose that a study of the uses of topical invention in the Renaissance may contribute to our knowledge of the cultural and intellectual unity and diversity during this period.