Late Antiquity, New Departures

Marco Formisano

in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Latin Literature

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Late Antiquity, New Departures

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Reception
  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)


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Late antique textuality acquires the mission of questioning common views of what “literature” is and, at the same time, it invites being put in productive comparison with literature produced in other ages. This will have the effect of tracing the reception of this often neglected textuality and challenges the various clichés that characterize the reading of late antiquity. This article interrogates widely accepted assumptions about periods of continuity and moments of departure in Latin literary history. In the survey of the late antique, the works of such as Claudian, Ausonius, Ennodius, Venantius Fortunatus, and Isidore are viewed as already standing across a radical divide from the classical authors and texts, which they ostensibly recall. The new modes of textuality these works explicitly and implicitly advance become the primary lens through which their successors in the Middle Ages look back at all earlier Latinity. Three textual aspects that are new and specific to late antiquity in comparison with earlier periods are discussed. These include the facets of late antique intertextuality that detach texts and their meanings from their original contexts by reconfiguring them within new frames and re-coding them through a process of resemanticization.

Keywords: Latin literary history; antiquity; resemanticization; textuality; departures

Article.  12646 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Reception ; Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)

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