“It is a part which, though it will be the most difficult to myself, from the necessity of examining a vast diversity of opinions, will yet perhaps afford the least pleasure to my readers, since it admits merely of a dry exposition of rules. In other parts, I have endeavored to introduce some little embellishment, not with the view of displaying my own ability (since for that purpose, a subject of more fertility might have been chosen), but in order that by that means, I might more successfully attract youth to the study of those matters which I thought necessary for their improvement; for if being stimulated by some pleasure in the reading, they might more willingly learn the precepts of which I found that a bare and dry enumeration might be repulsive to their minds and offend their ears, especially as they are grown so delicate.”
— Quintilian

Quintilian–whom Wikipedia tells me was also called Marcus Fabius Quintilianus–produced a lengthy historical text in Institutio Oratoria, detailing such subjects as the history of rhetoric, forms of rhetoric, and the teaching of young men. As Quintilian himself concedes in the third book of the text, “But I fear that this book may be thought to contain very little honey and a great deal of wormwood, and may be more serviceable for instruction than agreeable” (Kindle locs. 2508-2509). It is, as may be expected from such a text, largely quite dry and textbook-ish. He cites a quotation from Lucretius to indicate his attempts at making the work more palatable: “And as physicians, when they attempt to give bitter wormwood to children, first tinge the rim round the cup with the sweet and yellow liquid of honey, etc.” (Kindle locs. 2506-2507).

I have not attempted to apply my questions to this text. I do not see that it offers much in response to them, as Quintilian’s methods are hardly liberatory in the sense that my questions ask, and these references I have observed to attempting to “sweeten” the “bitter wormwood” of his treatise strike me as similar to the concept of gamefication–they take the position that learning is toil and that it must be masked. This runs quite contrary to Johnson’s renegade rhetoric, and it certainly is not compatible with Freire, hooks, etc. In the end, I cannot help but look on Quintilian as primarily a historical text, and as I am not primarily interested in historicizing rhetoric or pedagogy, I cannot particularly turn Quintilian to my ends. Perhaps what is most notable is that he seems to have affirmed Cicero’s thinking in many matters–and Cicero is another figure I have found challenging to utilize.

“We are by nature most tenacious of what we have imbibed in our infant years.”
— Quintilian


Quintilian. Institutes of Oratory. 95 CE. Trans. John Selby Watson. Lee Honeycutt, ed. 2010. Kindle edition.