Virgil in Medieval England: Figuring The Aeneid from the Twelfth Century to Chaucer

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What happens when a prestigious text of one period is read and reused in a different, much later world? What can we learn from the annotations accumulated by a single manuscript as it moved among new institutions and readerships? In this study Christopher Baswell takes as his model Virgil's Aeneid, and the many kinds of appeal it held for the culture of the Middle Ages. He examines a series of Latin manuscripts of the text which were copied in twelfth-century England but reused and reannotated for three centuries, and shows how medieval vernacular poets used Virgil's prestige to lay their own claim to poetic and even political authority.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...a compelling work that reconsiders the complex redaction of Virgil by medieval English scholars and poets." Religion and Literature

"...[a] courageous study..." Choice

"Filled with countless fresh insights and a plethora of challenges to the next generation of scholars to dig deeper, Virgil in Medieval England will satisfy the classicist, the medievalist, or perhaps even the modernist searching for an understanding of Virgil's enduring validity and viability. This interloper who loves the smell and feel of dusty old Virgilian vellum 'besmirched' with scholia greatly appreciates the hours of tedious labor Christopher Baswell has expended in the Virgilian domus for our benefit!" Raymond Cormier, Vergilius

"This investigation shows three approaches: allegorical, romantic, and pedagogical....This impressive work concludes with several appendices, indices, and a select bibliography." William Rusch, Religious Studies Review

"Baswell's book is rewarding throughout, dense with information and intelligent insight, and unfailingly rich and so clearly articulated...." Ralph Hexter, Bryn Mawr Classical Review

'Particularly in analyzing the portions of the two Chaucerian poems that treat the relationship between Dido and Aeneas, Baswell shows brilliantly how Chaucer confronted the ambiguous and even conflicting medieval views of the two characters. Drawing on all three approaches exhibited in the commentaries, he illuminates Chaucer's remarkable achievement in dealing with a body of inconsistent and challenging earlier 'figurings' of the story. Baswell was wise in concentrating on these three manuscripts as means to sorting out the complexities of the Virgilian tradition, and, through his perceptive reading of them, he has explained masterfully how that tradition operated in the culture of later medieval England." Albion

"Christpher Baswell provide[s] learned and intelligent answers and suggestions for scholars (and amateurs) to ponder in their assessment of Vergil's epic....the authority of his research, learned, recondite, and often self-effacing, will retain constant champions." Phoenix

"The book is a wonderful guide to the medieval reception of Virgil's poem, combining some of the best techniques of manuscript study with a keen and just use of literary analysis." John B. Friedman, American Historical Review

"Baswell's book successfully establishes the importance of marginalia as both reflections and creators of reader response." Maura Lafferty, Journal of Medieval Latin

"No student of medieval of Renaissance classicism can ignor Baswell's book. it is a treasure trove of information about the medieval Virgil brilliantly distilled to serve the needs of literary analysis." Barbara Nolan, Modern Philology

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Introduction: manuscripts and their contexts; 1. Auctor to Auctoritas: modes of access to Virgil in medieval England; 2. Pedagogical exegesis of Virgil in medieval England: Oxford All Souls College 82; 3. Spiritual allegory, platonising cosmology, and the Boethian Aeneid in medieval England: Cambridge, Peterhouse College, 158; 4. Moral allegory and the Aeneid in the time of Chaucer: London, BL Additional 27304; 5. The romance Aeneid; 6. Writing the reading of Virgil: Chaucerian authorities in the House of Fame and the Legend of Good Women; Conclusion; Apendices; Notes; Bibliography, Indexes.

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