Peter Mack, Director and Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition


I studied English Language and Literature at St Peter’s College Oxford, 1973-76, followed by the MPhil in Combined Historical Studies (The Renaissance), where I was taught by David Chambers, Charles Hope, Liz McGrath, Charles Schmitt, J. B. Trapp and D. P. Walker and supervised by Michael Baxandall, 1976-8. I had a year’s Leverhulme European Studentship held at the Institute of Philosophy, University of Rome and the Vatican Library, 1978-9. I did my PhD part-time at the Warburg Institute, 1979-83, supervised by Charles Schmitt.

I was appointed Lecturer in English and Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick in September 1979, progressing as Senior Lecturer and Reader, before being promoted to Professor in January 2001. I served as Chair of the Arts Faculty 1995-98 and Chair of the English Department 2001-4. In 2010 I was appointed as Director of the Warburg Institute, and Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition in the University of London, on secondment from my Chair at Warwick.


Most of my research has been concerned with the history of logic and rhetoric in the renaissance, in which field my publications include Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Rhetoric and Dialectic (1993), Renaissance Rhetoric (1994), Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (2002) and A History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380-1620 (to be published in 2011). In all these works I have tried to pay attention both to the way in which classical doctrines were transformed and to the impact of rhetorical training on habits of reading and writing. I am very interested in renaissance thought more broadly and in the impact of the classical tradition on renaissance European literature. These interests are reflected in my most recent book, Reading and Rhetoric in Montaigne and Shakespeare (2010) and in work I am currently doing on the way in which medieval and renaissance writers rethink issues raised in rhetorical theory. I hope to use the Institute’s resources in order to write more about renaissance ideas and scholarship, and the connections between literature and the visual arts. I would welcome inquiries from students interested in working on dissertations in any of these fields.

Current Research

In the last year I have been working on a group of papers related to rhetoric and scholarship in England 1550-1650, Montaigne in relation to the classical tradition and to his influence on English writers, sixteenth and seventeenth century philosopher-rhetoricians (Cavalcanti, Campanella, Bacon). Now I am writing some papers about ways in which writers confronted some of the classic problems presented in rhetoric, such as emotions, the audience and disposition. I am working on patronage as an aspect of literary careers 1300-1650 and I shall soon present a bid for a major collaborative research project on Rhetoric in European Renaissance Culture, building on my History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380-1620. I hope soon to make more progress on my collaboration with Marc van der Poel on an edition and translation of Rudolph Agricola’s De inventione dialectica..


British Academy

The Warburg Institute is pleased to announce the election of its Director, Professor Peter Mack, to Fellowship of the British Academy. This is a signal mark of academic distinction in the humanities and social sciences. Peter joins the Early Modern Languages and Literature Section of the Academy. He was an Academy Research Reader from 2004-6 and is a leading interpreter of Renaissance Rhetoric. In five world-leading books published between 1993 and 2011 he has explored the use of language in a wide variety of modern texts both literary and non-literary. 



Renaissance Argument: Valla and Agricola in the Traditions of Rhetoric and Dialectic (Leiden, 1993), xi + 395pp.

Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice (Cambridge, 2002)  330pp.

Elizabethan Rhetoric: Theory and Practice, paperback edition (Cambridge 2005)

Reading and Rhetoric in Montaigne and Shakespeare (London, 2010), xiii + 210pp.

 A History of Renaissance Rhetoric 1380-1620 (Oxford, 2011), x + 345pp.

Edited books and editions:

(with E. Chaney), England and the Continental Renaissance: Essays in Honour of J. B. Trapp (Woodbridge, 1990), xiv + 322 + 54 pp.

Renaissance Rhetoric (London, 1994), xiii + 188 pp.

(with Chris Walton) The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Oxford,   1994), viii + 152pp

(with Chris Walton) The Miller’s Tale (Oxford, 1995), viii + 168pp.

(with Andy Hawkins) The Nun’s Priest’s Tale (Oxford, 1996) viii + 138pp.

(with Andy Hawkins) The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2006) viii + 145pp.

(with Chris Walton) The Miller’s Tale, 2nd edition (Oxford, 2007) viii + 196pp.

(with Chris Walton) The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, 2nd edition (Oxford,   2008), vi + 185pp

Journal edited:

Rhetorica, vols XVI (1998), XVII (1999), XVIII (2000), XIX (2001) XX (2002)  c. 450 pp. each



‘Valla’s Dialectic in the North: A Commentary on Peter of Spain by Gerardus Listrius’, Vivarium, 21 (1983), 58-72

‘The Dialogue in English Education of the Sixteenth Century’, in M. T. Jones-Davies ed., Le Dialogue au temps de la renaissance (Paris, 1984), 189-212

‘Rudolph Agricola’s Reading of Literature’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 48 (1985), 23-41

‘Rudolph Agricola’s Topics’, in F. Akkerman and A. J. Vanderjagt eds, Rodophus Agricola Phrisius (1444-1485) (Leiden, 1988), 257-69

‘Rhetoric and Liturgy’, in D. Jasper and R. C. D. Jasper eds, Language and the Worship of the Church (London, 1990), 82-109

‘Rudolph Agricola’, in H-G Roloff ed., Die Deutsche Literatur, II (Bern 1991), 582-626

‘Valla’s Dialectic in the North 2: Further Commentaries’, Vivarium, 30 (1992), 256-75

‘Agricola’s Use of the Comparison between Writing and the Visual Arts’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 56 (1992), 169-79

‘Rhetoric and Dialectic in the Renaissance’, Bulletin of the Society for Renaissance Studies, 11, 1 (September 1993), 1-5

‘Agricola’s Dialectic and the Tradition of Rhetoric’, in F. Akkerman, G. C. Huisman, A. J. Vanderjagt eds, Wessel Gansfort (1419-1489) and Northern Humanism (Leiden, 1993), 273-90

‘Rhetoric in Use: Three Romances by Greene and Lodge’, in P. Mack ed., Renaissance Rhetoric (London, 1994), 119-38

‘Addison’s Essays as Models for Composition in School Anthologies and Textbooks of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries’, Paradigm, 13 (1994), 42-54

‘Rhetoric and the Essay’, Rhetoric Society Journal, 23:2 (1993), 41-49 (actually 1994)

‘Understanding the Rhetoric Textbook’, Meesterwerk, 1 (1994), 22-28

‘Renaissance Habits of Reading’, in S. Chaudhuri ed., Renaissance Essays for Kitty Scoular Datta (Calcutta, 1995), 1-25

‘Theory and Practice in Rudolph Agricola’, in J. Koopmans, M. A. Meadow, K. Meerhoff and M. Spies eds, Rhetoric - Rhétoriqueurs - Rederijkers (Amsterdam, 1995), 39-52

‘Authors’ Disclaimers and Attitudes to Fiction’, TLS, 4837 (15 December 1995), 12-13

‘Humanist rhetoric and dialectic’, in J. Kraye ed., The Cambridge Companion to Renaissance Humanism (Cambridge, 1996), 82-99

‘The Scholars’ Tales’, TLS, 4853 (5 April 1996), 23-24

‘Agricola and the early versions of Ramus’s Dialectic’, in K. Meerhoff, J. Moisan eds, Autour de Ramus (Quebec, 1997), 17-35

‘Tha Swan of Leek?’, TLS, 4942 (19 December 1997),  10-11

‘La retorica y la dialectica humanisticas’ in J. Kraye ed., Introduccion al humanismo renacentista (Madrid, 1998), 115-36 (translation of 1996 essay)

‘Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Northern Humanist Textbooks: Agricola, Erasmus, melanchthon and Ramus’, in G. Dahan and I. Rosier-Catach eds, La rhétorique d’ Aristote: traditions et commentaires de l’ antiquité au xviie siècle (Paris, 1998), 299-313

‘Agricola, Rudolph’, ‘Melanchthon, Philipp’, ‘Ramus, Petrus’, in Edward Craig ed., The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 10 vols (London, 1998), I, 123-26, VI,  288-92, VIII,  51-55 (total c. 7,000 words)

‘The Sun and the Other Stars’, TLS 4997 (8 January 1999) 10-11

 ‘Ramus Reading: The Commentaries on Cicero’s Orations and Vergil’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes LXI (1998) 111-41 (actually 1999)

‘Synoiceosis and Antithesis in The Winter’s Tale’, in P. L. Oesterreich and T. O. Sloane eds, Rhetorica Movet (Leiden, 1999), 187-97

‘Rudolph Agricola’s Christmas Sermon’, in Z. von Martels, P. Steenbakkers and A. Vanderjagt eds, Limae labor et mora (Leende, 2000) 45-54

“Rhetoric and Poetry”, in T. Sloane ed., Encyclopaedia of Rhetoric (New York, 2001), 603-12.

“Elizabethan Parliamentary Oratory”, Huntington Library Quarterly 64:1-2 (2001) 23-61 (actually 2002)

 “Melanchthon’s Commentaries on Latin Literature”, in G. Frank and K. Meerhoff eds, Melanchthon und Europa, 2, Westeuropa (Stuttgart, 2002) 29-52

“Le ramisme à Oxford au 16ème siècle”, en K. Meerhoff et M.Magnien eds, Ramus et l’université (Paris, 2004)

“Argument and Emotion in Troilus and Criseyde”, in Scott Troyan ed., Medieval Rhetoric: A Casebook (New York: Routledge, 2004), pp. 109-26

 “Early Modern Ideas of Imagination: the Rhetorical Tradition”, in Lodi Nauta and Detlev Pätzold eds, Imagination in the Later Middle Ages and Early Modern Times (Leuven: Peeters, 2004), pp. 59-76

“Rhetoric, Ethics and Reading in the Renaissance”, Renaissance Studies 19 (2005), pp. 1-21

“Vives’s De arte dicendi: Structure, Innovations, Problems”, Rhetorica 23 (2005), pp. 65-92.

“Rudolph Agricola’s Contribution to Rhetorical Theory”, in P. Bizzell ed., Rhetorical Agendas: Political, Ethical, Spiritual (Mahwah NJ, 2006), pp. 25-40

“Education, Humanism and Rhetoric”, in Donna Hamilton ed., A Concise Companion to English Renaissance Literature (Oxford, 2006), pp. 94-113

“Declamation in Renaissance England”, in L.  Calboli Montefusco ed., Declamation, Papers in Rhetoric 8 (Rome, 2007), pp. 129-55

“Rhetoric and Dialectic in the Renaissance”, in J. Powell ed., Logos: Rational Argument in Classical Rhetoric, BICS Supplement 96 (Institute of Classical Studies, 2007), pp. 91-103

“Rhetoric and Dialectic”, The International Encyclopedia of Communication, ed. W. Donsbach (Oxford: Blackwell, 2008), pp. 4224-8.

“Vives’s Contributions to Rhetoric and Dialectic” in C. Fantazzi ed., A Companion to Juan Luis Vives (Leiden, 2008), pp. 227-76.

“Rhetoric and Politics in the Elizabethan Parliament”, J. Feuchter and J. Helmrath eds, Politische Redekultur in der Vormoderne (Frankfurt, 2008), pp. 173-87.

“Montaigne and Christian Humanism”, in A. MacDonald, Z. von Martels and J. Veenstra eds, Christian Humanism: Essays in Honour of A. J. Vanderjagt (Leiden, 2009), pp. 199-209.

“Rediscoveries of Classical Rhetoric”, in E. Gunderson ed., The Cambridge Companion to Ancient Rhetoric (Cambridge, 2009), pp. 261-77.

“Montaigne and Shakespeare: Source, Parallel or Comparison?”, Montaigne Studies 23 (2011), 151-80.

 “Dialectic”, in Anthony Grafton, Glenn Most and Salvatore Settis eds, The Classical Tradition (Harvard University Press, 2010), pp. 265-6

"Rhetoric and the Elizabethan Theatre: Speech, Audience, Enactment, Emotion", in B. F. Pereira ed., Retorica e Teatro (Porto, 2010), pp. 263-78

"Spenser and Rhetoric", in R. McCabe ed., The Oxford Handbook of Edmund Spenser (Oxford, 2011), pp. 420-36

 “Informal Ethics in the Renaissance”, D. Lines ed., Ethics Revisited