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The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English LiteratureVolume 1: 800–1558$
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Rita Copeland

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199587230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199587230.001.0001

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Academic Prologues to Authors

Academic Prologues to Authors

(p.151) Chapter 8 Academic Prologues to Authors
The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature

Rita Copeland

Oxford University Press

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

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