Before the invention of printing, all forms of writing were done by hand. For a literary text to circulate among readers, and to be transmitted from one period in time to another, it had to be copied by scribes. As a result, two copies of an ancient book were different from one another, and each individual book or manuscript has its own history. The oldest of these books, those that are the closest to the time in which the texts were composed, are few, usually damaged, and have been often neglected in the scholarship. Ancient Latin Poetry Books presents a detailed study of the oldest manuscripts still extant that contain texts by Latin poets, such as Virgil, Terence, and Ovid. Analyzing their physical characteristics, their script, and the historical contexts in which they were produced and used, this volume shows how manuscripts can help us gain a better understanding of the history of texts, as well as of reading habits over the centuries. Since the manuscripts originated in various places of the Latin-speaking world, Ancient Latin Poetry Books investigates the readership and reception of Latin poetry in many different contexts, such schools in the Egyptian desert, aristocratic circles in southern Italy, and the Christian élite in late antique Rome. The research also contributes to our knowledge about the use of writing and the importance of the written text in antiquity. This is an innovative approach to the study of ancient literature, one that takes the materiality of texts into consideration.
Augustine of Hippo, a central figure in the history of Western thought, is also the author of a theory of reading that has had a profound influence on Western letters from the ages of Petrarch, Montaigne, Luther, and Rousseau to those of Freud and our own time. Brian Stock provides the first full account of this theory within the evolution of Augustine’s early dialogues, his Confessions, and his systematic treatises.Augustine was convinced that words and images play a mediating role in our perceptions of reality. In the union of philosophy, psychology, and literary insights that forms the basis of his theory of reading, the reader emerges as the dominant model of the reflective self. Meditative reading, indeed the meditative act that constitutes reading itself, becomes the portal to inner being. At the same time, Augustine argues that the self-knowledge reading brings is, of necessity, limited, since it is faith rather than interpretive reason that can translate reading into forms of understanding.In making his theory of reading a central concern, Augustine rethinks ancient doctrines about images, memory, emotion, and cognition. In judging what readers gain and do not gain from the sensory and mental understanding of texts, he takes up questions that have reappeared in contemporary thinking. He prefigures, and in a way he teaches us to recognize, our own preoccupations with the phenomenology of reading, the hermeneutics of tradition, and the ethics of interpretation.
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