Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Job, Boethius and Epic Truth

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Job, Boethius and Epic Truth

Article excerpt

Ann W. Astell, Job, Boethius and Epic Truth (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994). xv + 240 pp. ISBN 0-8014-29x1-0. £27.50.

Asserting the existence of a continuous tradition of heroic poetry from antiquity to the Renaissance, Ann W. Astell takes her definition of 'epic truth' from Stoic, Neoplatonic and early medieval Christian exegetes, who interpreted the Iliad, the Odyssey and the Aeneid as allegories of the acquisition of self-knowledge. She argues that, despite the formal discontinuities between classical epic and medieval romance, an allegorical core of epic truth survived into the Middle Ages through the influence of the 'heroic' Book of Job and The Consolation of Philosophy, which argued, through analogous treatments of patient struggle against hostile fortune or the enemies of God, for the necessity of self-mastery and the recognition of the supremacy of Providence over the vagaries of fortune. As is apparent from the comparison, in Aquinas' commentary on Job, between the steadfastly rational Job and the imprisoned Boethius, the 'intertextual pairing' of these works became a medieval commonplace, and Astell argues compellingly for the transmission of epic truth, in its Boethian and Joban manifestations, through a range of medieval and Renaissance literature from hagiographie, amatory and chivalric romances to Milton's 'heroic trilogy' of Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes. …

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