Chapter

Academic Prologues to Authors

Rita Copeland

in The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature

Published in print January 2016 | ISBN: 9780199587230
Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780191820410 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587230.003.0008

Series: Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature

Academic Prologues to Authors

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The formulaic prologue or introduction (accessus) to an author or text was a classical critical genre that descended to the Middle Ages, where it was used early on to apprehend classical texts, both literary and learned. Medieval scriptural exegetes and commentators on philosophy, science, and law recruited the genre, applying it to recent as well as ancient texts. From its later uses in theology and secular learning the genre migrated back into literary spheres as a newly powerful apparatus for interpretation of vernacular as well as Latin texts. The academic prologue became a strong vehicle for theoretical reflection on authorial intention and on the formal properties of texts, and gave expression to the critic’s role as agent of the interpretative process. In vernacular literary culture the academic prologue provided a template for authors to address the authority of established traditions while negotiating a place for contemporary works.

Keywords: academic prologues; Metamorphoses; Heroides; Ars amatoria; intentio auctoris; formal criticism; Nicholas Trevet; Seneca; Confessio amantis; Legend of Good Women

Chapter.  6421 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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