Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Agesby Erich Auerbach, Ralph Manheim (Translator)
In this, his final book, Erich Auerbach states, "My purpose is always to write history." Tracing the influence of classical Latin rhetoric throughout literary history from late antiquity to the modern era, Auerbach continues to explore many of the issues presented in his Mimesis. For example, he draws attention to the historical and social contexts in which writings were received, and raises issues of aesthetics, semantics, stylistics, and sociology that anticipate the concerns of the new contemporary historicism.
"Auerbach magically relates the story of Christian transformation of the . . . styles of classical pagan antiquity with the lowly style accepted as standard in the Middle Ages until the reemergence of the sublime style through Dante's Divine Comedy."--The Virginia Quarterly Review
"This book, like [Mimesis], is necessary reading. . . . [Its] penetration of the Western public and its language is both subtle and powerful. . . . The existence and the delights of his book and of the lifework it completed are an enormous beacon burning against despair."--The Times Literary Supplement
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Unfortunately I haven't read this book yet, but it was the title that made my interest grow: the initiative of applying the literary reception theories to ancient latin literature is absolutely outstanding; therefore, several questions aroused my curiosity: is the taxinomy conceived on genres and species? What is meant by public: the author/reader relationship? The strategies of reading? Did the researcher mean by 'literary language' a stylistic canon of the period? I wonder if it is the public who influenced the literary style in Antiquity (given its oral character), if the oral and vulgar conventions are the typical mark of late latin literature. It was Julia Kristeva who explained that the mediaeval 'roman courtois' was made up of conventions, of sequences, of code combinations. Undoubtedly, the code theory and the code swifting is related to specific demands of the public (as long as by public it is meant 'reader'). The intertext theory constitutes a very important aspect in the literary corpus studied in the reviwed book. Having in mind Petron's 'Satyricon', I consider it a real source for applying such modern interpretation patterns: the citations, the proverbs, the inserted poems show a deep folk layer, impossible to ignore in the intertextual theory. I suggest that the 'literary language and its public' should also consider the intertextual theory as a major factor in writing, reading, studying world-literature in the early times. Ioana Manolescu, researcher July 2nd, 2003