Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dively, Rhonda

Second Advisor

Wiley, Dan


This dissertation is the first intensive rhetorical analysis of the writings of St. Patrick. This analysis, informed by interdisciplinary perspectives and methodologies, contributes to our understanding of the rhetorical nature of St. Patrick's writings, as well as the nature of rhetorical education in early medieval Britain and Ireland The literary significance of Patrick's extant writings, Epistola ad milites Corotici and Confessio, beyond their apparent historical value, has regularly been disputed by prominent scholars. Questions of the level of education Patrick received before being assigned to the bishopric in Ireland have informed debates over the quality and importance of his contribution to Hiberno-Latin literature. This study demonstrates the significance of Patrick's texts through discussion of Patrick's rhetorical astuteness and application of classical rhetorical techniques to a new and challenging context: that of a disseminating Christian world. The rhetorical strategies witnessed in Patrick's writings are decidedly Christian and therefore demonstrate the changing rhetorical culture of the early medieval period. The first chapters focus on ars dictaminis and Patrick's employment of the art of letter writing in Ireland in the 5th century CE. The rhetorical strategies detected in Patrick's Epistola ad milites Corotici are discussed relative to the socio-political and cultural context of early medieval Ireland. The later chapters study the Confessio in relationship to the Confession genre in the Late Roman and Early Medieval periods. Of particular significance here is the rhetorical practice of imitatio, which has deep reaching theological and ideological implications.




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