The Poet as Schoolbook

Andrew Wallace

in Virgil's Schoolboys

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199591244
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595561 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

The Poet as Schoolbook

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This chapter studies the glossed octavo editions in which Virgil was made available to English schoolboys during the last decades of the sixteenth century. It argues that an image of Virgil-as-master (and through this, a conception of mastery itself) is constructed in the principal Virgilian schoolbooks used in Renaissance England, in foundational curriculum texts such as Lily's grammar, and on the two-dimensional plane of the glossed, commented page. Pitting itself against the prevailing view that commentary is instinctively agonistic, this chapter draws together threads in Virgil, Lily, and the history of classical scholarship to argue that the practice of commentary, no less than the practice of instruction, is one of the disciplines of amor (in all of that word's Virgilian complications). As such, commentary becomes an extension of one of humanist pedagogy's most cherished constructions: the figure of the loving master. Indeed, the practice of humanist pedagogy sees the master striving to recuperate a particular experience of the text by becoming the object of the student's zeal, and by speaking on behalf of the recalcitrant text, the silent object of the student's attentions. The loving master thus embodies in a displaced form the fantasy that a schoolbook might reciprocate the schoolboy's desires. The work of commentary in glossed editions of Virgil grants a material form to that impossible romance.

Keywords: amor; colloquy; commentary; commentator; curriculum; grammarian; humanism; Jerome; Lily; Manutius; Manuzio; master; pedagogy; scholia; schoolbook; schoolboy; schoolmaster; Vergil

Chapter.  16406 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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