Robert L. Benson (1925–1996), professor of history at the University of California, Los Angeles, was one of the most learned and original medievalists of his generation. At his untimely death he left behind a considerable body of unpublished writings, many of which he had revised and refined and in some cases presented in lectures and at conferences over many years. The best and most significant of these previously unpublished writings are collected in this volume.
The essays in Law, Rulership, and Rhetoric span Benson's entire career from 1955 to 1994. They comprise a rich collection covering a vast range of topics in political, intellectual, legal, and ecclesiastical history, rhetoric, and historiography. Art historians will find the three essays on medieval images of rulership and medieval art valuable, and literary scholars will be interested in the essays on, among others, Boncompagno da Signa. The volume concludes with several occasional, historiographical essays, including a spirited defense of Ernst Kantorowicz against Norman Cantor and an entertaining talk on "the medievalist as literary hero." The volume begins with a brief biographical sketch and appreciation of Benson by Horst Fuhrmann.
"Law, Rulership, and Rhetoric: Selected Essays of Robert L. Benson makes an original contribution by bringing forward Benson's unpublished essays, thus revealing in important new ways Benson's significance for medieval history. Historians in several fields should find these essays of interest. Others in art history, Church history, political history, and legal history can find items of interest here." —Robert Somerville, Columbia University