Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Article excerpt

The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature, ed. Ralph J. Hexter and David Townsend (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), xix + 636 pp.; timeline of medieval authors, indexes of persons, topics, places. ISBN 978-0-19-539401-6. £95.00.

Twenty-eight essays comprise this handbook, the majority by American authors. In his introduction (pp. 3-24) Townsend calls for an acknowledgement of recent critical trends, particularly reception theory, from scholars who study postclassical literature written in Latin. Reception theory, as I understand it, deals with how succeeding generations of writers preserve, comment on, gloss, are inspired by the work of their predecessors. Of necessity it looks backward, in this case toward the classics and early medieval authorities, like Martianus Capella and Isidore of Seville. The essays illustrate the implications and limitations of this emphasis. First, literature is not here restricted to belles lettres but rather foregrounds the commentaries and glosses on earlier literature. This in turn means that the time-frame covered in the anthology is pretty well restricted to post-Isidore, post-Martianus up to and including the twelfth century. It also means that the dominant view of the Latin authors is Platonic; and with the exception of Thomas Burman's essay (pp. 86-105), little space is given to the reception of Aristotle and the profound shift in thinking adumbrated by Peter Abelard and continued by Thomas Aquinas, Grosseteste, and Bonaventure. …

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