Medieval Literary Theory: From Exegetics to Poetics.
- Christopher Collins (see profile)
- Late Antiquity, Medieval Studies, Poetics and Poetry
- Poetics, Poetry
- Item Type:
- biblical exegetics, Poetics and poetry
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- Early medieval literate culture, dominated by Christian monks and clerics, was focused on interpreting biblical texts and correlating them with a theological system devised in patristic times and late antiquity. Central to biblical exegesis was the fourfold method that distinguished the literal (or historical) sense of Old Testament narratives from the three spiritual senses revealed in the New Testament documents. These spiritual senses were the allegorical (or typological), the moral (or tropological), and the anagogical (or eschatological) senses. Inspired by the re-emergence of Aristotelian philosophy via Arabic translations subsequently retranslated into Latin, the newly founded universities began to question the Platonism that had long shored up the Christian world-view. Soon the Aristotelian four causes (material, formal, efficient, and final) were providing a useful conceptual framework to explain natural phenomena, social institutions, and human artifacts. In this paper, I discuss the reasons why attempts to align fourfold exegetical method with fourfold causal analysis failed when applied to biblical texts, but, when applied to the writing and reading a secular texts, succeeded in establishing the theoretical basis for a distinctively Western poetics.
- This manuscript, here formatted as a journal article, is taken from a chapter of a work-in-progress projected to become the third in a series of studies on the biological and cultural evolution of poetics. The previous volumes, both published by Columbia University Press, are Paleopoetics The Evolution of the Preliterate Imagination (2013) and Neopoetics: The Evolution of the Literate Imagination (2016).
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