This article examines the earliest examples of advertising and consumer commodities in medieval texts in relation to twentieth-century critical theories of the social role of advertising and its relation to both“literature” and “rhetoric.” It discusses the ways advertising and rhetoric have been linked in these recent theories and the ways literature has been excluded from this nexus. Turning to the Middle Ages,the article examines a different nexus between literature and rhetoric. Whereas advertising is typically seen in current theory as fundamentally“antipoetic,” it was in the Middle Ages central to the birth of literary textuality, a discourse that challenged the status of rhetoric and religiously oriented literature. The birth of the commodity and its advertisement corresponds to a birth of the “poetic” in the Western vernacular tradition.

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