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Through A Classical Eye

Through A Classical Eye: Transcultural & Transhistorical Visions in Medieval English, Italian, and Latin Literature in Honour of Winthrop Wetherbee

  • Book Info
    Through A Classical Eye
    Book Description:

    Contains first-rate essays that demonstrate a range of strategies for undertaking transcultural and transhistorical studies of the late medieval period, and examines medieval literature and culture where English, Italian, and Latin materials overlap.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8943-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-2)
  3. The School of Wetherbee
    (pp. 3-18)

    Through a Classical Eye: Transcultural and Transhistorical Visions in Medieval English, Italian, and Latin Literature in Honour of Winthrop Wetherbeepresents essays by friends, colleagues, and former students of Winthrop (Pete) Wetherbee. The essays are not only, however, a tribute to one scholar’s accomplishments and influence; they are also a display of current work pursuing connections between antiquity and the medieval present, between Latin and other medieval literatures, and between diverse national, cultural, literary, and interpretive communities, especially as all those adapted ancient models or saw classical traditions with new eyes.

    Interest in transcultural and transhistorical vision in medieval literature...

  4. Winthrop Wetherbee: A Bibliography of Scholarship, 1969–2008
    (pp. 19-24)
  5. Catullus among the Christians
    (pp. 27-43)

    With the exception of c.62, which circulated separately in the Latin Middle Ages, the manuscript tradition of Catullus tells a story of absence – and this absence pulls readers in one direction, confirming the view that Catullus was unknown in the centuries after Martial.¹ But the witness of literary artists stretching from the fourth through the tenth centuries – in figures as disparate as Ausonius, Paulinus of Nola, Sidonius Apollinaris, Corippus, Paul the Deacon, Heiric of Auxerre, and Rather of Verona, among others – encourages us in another direction – or ought to.

    This paper cultivates that encouragement. My goals in what follows are,...

  6. Hisperic Faminations
    (pp. 44-68)

    La règle primordiale, du reste, en fait de styles, était de ne point les mélanger. Aujourd’hui encore, aucun commentateur de l’Ecriture, par exemple, à moins d’être indécemment facétieux, n’appellera un chat sinon ‘un chat’: ni Matou, ni Minet, ni Minette, ni Raminagrobis, ni Poupousse, ni Hamilcar (en souvenir duCrime de Silvestre Bonnard), ni meme Pangur Bán (sinon en marge). Ainsi jadis, dans un ouvrage d’érudition, non de fantaisie, on évitait de nommer un hommegibra,une mainiduma,une boucheforceps,une assembléecongelamen,et de direalboreus pour albus,etarboreus pour ligneus.²

    Besides, the fundamental rule, with...

  7. Silvestris: ‘Silva’: ‘Selva oscura’
    (pp. 69-85)

    Did I first read Pete Wetherbee onTroilus and Criseyde,to see how he linked the ending of that poem and its palinode with Dante, or was it his work on, and translation of, theCosmographiaof Bernardus Silvestris, which has served so well those working on classical, medieval, or Renaissance literature? If the latter, I was comparing the allegory of the soul that appears there and in the commentary on theAeneidwith Dante’s presentation in theConvivioof man’s ideal, ethical growth, the topic of Ulrich Leo. But perhaps the work on Chaucer and Bernardus Silvestris connect, since...

  8. Alain of Lille’s Use of ‘Naufragium’ in De Planctu Naturae
    (pp. 86-106)
    R. F. YEAGER

    A number of years ago Ernst Robert Curtius called critical attention to what he termed ‘a metaphor which appears insignifi cant.’ He had in mind the frequent comparison, by Latinauctoresand certain later writers steeped in the classical tradition, of ‘the composition of a work to a nautical voyage.’² The metaphor had wide application, and consistent recognition:

    ‘To compose’ is ‘to set the sails, to sail’ (‘vela dare’: Virgil,Georgics, 2.41). At the end of the work the sails are furled (‘vela trahere’:ibid., 4.117). The epic poet voyages over the open sea in a great ship, the lyric...

  9. Medieval Intellectual Biography: The Case of Guido Faba
    (pp. 109-124)

    About 1225, Guido Faba, master ofdictamenand rhetoric at Bologna, wrote a preface to one of his treatises, theRota nova.In this preface he described his life, but particularly his career, up to that point. Guido was born about 1190 and dead probably by 1245. The brief preface to theRota novathus finds Guido, more or less, in the middle of his professional life. TheRota novais found – in full, partial, or fragmentary form – in only four manuscripts. The fullest version of theRota novais in New College Oxford MS 255 (s. XIII), where the...

  10. Europe and Rome: Spectacle and Geometry of Justice, Paradiso XVIII–XX
    (pp. 125-144)

    ThroughoutParadiso,Dante makes several references to Europe and more overtly, throughout the poem, to Rome’s providential status within salvation history. The role of Virgil and hisAeneid,not to speak of the value attached to the Roman Empire (Par.VI), are too well known to be rehashed here. InParadisoXXVII (ll. 76–84), as the pilgrim stands at the frontier of the physical universe, Beatrice asks him to lower his eyes and look at the distance he has travelled. As he gazes at the arc of space along which he has turned, he sees in the West the Pillars...

  11. From Simile to Prologue: Geography as Link in Dante, Petrarch, Chaucer
    (pp. 145-164)

    In the eleventh canto of theInferno,Virgil informs Dante that Hell’s nethermost regions are reserved for sinners who have committed crimes of malice. He goes on to explain that although all malicious acts have injury as their end, some use force, some fraud, to do their harm. Since fraud is an evil peculiar to humans, it offends God more than other transgressions; greater pain therefore assails those who practised it (Inf.XI. 22–7).¹

    The actual passage from violent to fraudulent malevolence occurs in the central cantos of the poem. To mark the transition as, literally, a pivotal event...

  12. Boccaccio’s Greek Philology: A Rediscovered Country
    (pp. 165-188)

    This essay seeks to explore the contradictions in Boccaccio’s understanding of Greek classicism as a humanist philological project on the one hand, and its genealogical and rhetorical relationship to vernacular themes and motifs including Byzantium and the Islamic world on the other.¹ The contradictions emerge in part because one rhetorical strategy in Boccaccio’sDecameronrepresents a kind of self-conscious and deliberate ‘Orientalism’ that he legitimizes by connecting Asiatic literary themes, images, and motifs to Greek philology. Specifically, for the heuristic of this essay, one can trace a theory of Greek philology in theGenealogy of the Gentile Gods,in the...

  13. Saladin and the Truth of Religion in Decameron I.3 and X.9
    (pp. 189-205)

    If the appearance of historical figures in the literature of the late Middle Ages is a measure of the esteem with which they were held in the medieval imagination, then few if any figures can match the status of Saladin in both popularity and prestige. Even though he was the sworn enemy of Christendom and the Islamic leader most responsible for inflicting defeat after devastating defeat on the crusading armies, his reputation as a noble and virtuous leader flourished in the West during the crusades and continued to grow in stature in their aftermath. He makes frequent appearances in italian...

  14. Griselde before Chaucer: Love between Men, Women, and Farewell Art
    (pp. 206-220)

    The Griselde story ran and ran through centuries of European storytelling, poetry, drama, opera, painting, pageant, and matrimonial advice manual. It has been exhaustively analysed as a rolling confabulation all about women, or one exemplary woman, and her sufferings at the hands of despotic, marital, and masculine authority. Giovanni Boccaccio first promoted the story as the last of his one hundredDecamerontales; Francesco Petrarca ensured its authority and European diffusion by Latinizing Boccaccio’snovellafor his last letter collection, theSeniles.Griselde grew famous in the English-speaking world chiefly through her translation, with the help of French intermediary texts,...

  15. New Science, Old Dance: The Clerk and the Wife of Bath at Philology
    (pp. 223-238)

    When Chaucer’s Clerk prefaces his tale of Griselda by saying that he learned it from a certain ‘Fraunceys Petrak’ (IV.31),¹ he is doing something new in theCanterbury Tales.No previous tale, and indeed no later tale, is attributed by its teller to a single named author. The uniqueness of the Clerk’s gesture here has received relatively little critical comment – in part, no doubt, because the ‘Clerk’s Tale’ reallydoescome from Petrarch. If the Clerk had cited ‘Lollius,’ the naming would seem more remarkable. As it is, scholars have followed the philological trail to Petrarch’s Latin epistle, and to...

  16. Another ‘Lollere in the wynd’? The Miller, the Bible, and the Destruction of Doors
    (pp. 239-266)

    Isadora Wing, Erica Jong’s heroine inFear of Flying, imagines Chaucer’s Miller as ‘a former political activist from the University of Chicago who now distributes literature for French women’s lib.’ The Miller I will be concerned with here is not so unlike this Miller, although he won’t yet have discovered the delights of women’s lib (‘Why are you a feminist?’ Isadora asks a guy who is ‘hot for the movement.’ ‘Because it’s the best damned way of getting laid nowadays’).¹ But our Miller will be on much the same side as those aspiring intellectuals, the Wycliffi tes or Lollards, in...

  17. Chaucer’s Englishing of Latin Wordplay
    (pp. 267-286)

    This essay (and that is what it is, for I am not steeped in Chaucerian scholarship) examines selected aspects of Chaucer’s wordplay from two different perspectives. I try to assess what happens to his poetry when we remove the wordplay, as some translators have done, and then try to show some ways in which Chaucer’s poetry follows the practices of classical Roman writers. Pete Wetherbee convinced me years ago that Chaucer was more intimately familiar with Latin literature than was commonly thought. And his study ofTroilusremains one of the best halfdozen studies of Statius’sThebaidin the English...

  18. Once More into the Breech: The Pardoner’s Prize ‘Relyk’
    (pp. 287-315)

    Having asked Harry Bailly to ‘com forth’ and be the first to ‘kisse’ his spurious ‘relikes everychon,’ the Pardoner suffers the most robust putdown in the entireCanterbury Tales.

    ‘Nay, nay!’ quod he [i.e., Bailly], ‘thanne have I cristes curs!

    Lat be,’ quod he, ‘it shal nat be, so theech!

    Thou woldest make me kisse thyn olde breech,

    And swere it were a relyk of a seint,

    Though it were with thy fundament depeint!

    But, by the croys which that Seint Eleyne fond,

    I wolde I hadde thy coillons in myn hond

    In stide of relikes or of seintuarie.


  19. Windows and Wounds in Fragment I of the Canterbury Tales
    (pp. 316-338)

    In Part One of the ‘Knight’s Tale,’ Palamon awakens one sunny morning and goes up to a high chamber in the prison tower where he can look out on Athens and down into the garden below. As he roams back and forth bewailing his fate, he happens to look through a barred window and ‘cast his eye’ on Emelye, who is herself roaming in the garden singing and gathering flowers. The window, ‘thikke of many a barre / Of iren greet’ (CT I.1075–6),² emphasizes Palamon’s separation from the inviting world below. Through this window comes the injury Palamon receives...

  20. The Voice of an Exile: From Ovidian Lament to Prophecy in Book I of John Gower’s Vox Clamantis
    (pp. 339-362)

    The first book of theVox Clamantisprovides us with a personal and highly emotive account of the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, written in elegiac couplets and cast in the form of a dream vision.¹ In the prologue to this openingVisio,Gower seeks to justify his use of elegiac metre by borrowing the following couplet from Ovid’sTristia:

    Flebilis vt noster status est, ita fl ebile carmen,

    Materie scripto conueniente sue. (VCI.Prol.33–4)²

    Doleful is my condition, so doleful is the song,

    the writing befitting its subject matter.

    In theTristiathis couplet is found in the introductory poem...

  21. Gower and Ovid: Pygmalion and the (Dis)illusion of the Word
    (pp. 363-380)

    In his famous play ofPygmalionGeorge Bernard Shaw turns Ovid’s story about the transformative power of an artist and of art into a lesson about the transformative power of an academic and, in a sense, of the word. The story is about the more-or-less successful transformation of one person by another through language. It is perhaps appropriate to devote an essay in afestschrift, a book that honours the intellectual influence of an academic, to the story of Pygmalion. All of the contributors in this particular volume as well as many others have been shaped in one way or...

  22. Blowing Blindness in Cleanness (line 885)
    (pp. 381-389)

    One of the crucial turning points in the narrative of Lot, his wife and daughters, and his angelic visitors in the Middle English poemCleannessoccurs when the men of Sodom reject Lot’s offer of his daughters and threaten him and his visitors with violence. Lot is about to be lynched, beaten, or sexually abused by his compatriots, when his guests, the angels sent by God, rescue him.

    Bot þat þe ʒonge men so ʒepe ʒornen þeroute,

    Wapped vpon þe wyket and wonnen hem tylle,

    And by þe hondez hym hent and horyed hym withinne,

    And steken þe ʒates ston-harde...

  23. The Economy of Involucrum: Idleness in Reason and Sensuality
    (pp. 390-412)

    A fairly recent document regarding graduate supervision in British universities directed supervisors to maintain a ‘conscious, active and continuous’ awareness of ways in which graduate supervision was being conducted and could be improved. The energetic, not to say strenuous attention thus required is an element in a management culture of permanent revolution, whose goal is to ensure that each penny of taxpayers’ investment should be accountably exploited. The underlying goal is pure transparency, in which every level of every activity is open to the auditor’s inspection.

    This apparently reasonable war on waste leaves, however, two things out of account: ‘habitus,’...

  24. Thirty Years of Lunches
    (pp. 415-418)

    I first met Pete and Andrea Wetherbee at Reeve Parker’s old farmhouse high above Lake Cayuga near Trumansburg, New York. It was a blindingly bright autumn day in 1972 and we were gathered with about twenty others to grind and crush apples to make cider. As we pressed apples and got juice on our hands and clothes, our children played in the orchard and among the hedges. The Wetherbees had come to Ithaca from California; Nancy and I had only recently arrived from North Carolina. But I soon discovered Pete had New England roots, and we began to talk about...

  25. Contributors
    (pp. 419-420)
  26. Index
    (pp. 421-436)