Crossing Generic Boundaries

A. G. Rigg

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394016
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Crossing Generic Boundaries

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  • Classical Reception


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Medieval Latin literature flouts the boundaries between the expectations of one genre and another in many ways, but this article deals majorly with three genre: the presence of humor in contexts where it might seem incongruous; the uncertain negotiations of meter, rhythm, and rhyme as principles of poetic form; and the importation of vernacular vocabulary and structure and crosslinguistic puns into Latin texts. Despite the general assumption that, because Latinity presupposes an author's clerical status it must involve piety and seriousness, it is in Latin that we most often find a touch of irony or “subversive” laughter, perhaps because the clerical classes were more alert, better trained, and even more skeptical about too much piety. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries a shift in literary taste began that had the effect of a pedagogical contraceptive pill. By reverting to classical standards of Latin grammar, style, orthography, meter, and textual criticism, Humanism put the brake on and eventually stopped most of the inventiveness of late medieval Latin literary endeavors and frivolities.

Keywords: Medieval Latin literature; rhythm; poetic form; vernacular vocabulary; Latinity

Article.  7664 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception

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