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Tale and Parable: Theorizing Fictions in the Old English Boethius

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 June 2021

Abstract

Scholarship has often considered the concept of fiction a modern phenomenon. But the Old English Boethius teaches us that medieval people could certainly tell that a fictional story was a lie, although it was hard for them to explain why it was all right that it was a lie—this is the problem the Old English Boethius addresses for the first time in the history of the English language. In translating Boethius's sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy, the ninth-century Old English Boethius offers explanatory comments on its source's narrative exempla drawn from classical myth. While some of these comments explain stories unfamiliar to early medieval English audiences, others consider how such “false stories” may be read and experienced by those properly prepared to encounter them. In so doing, the Old English Boethius must adopt and adapt a terminology for fiction that is unique in the extant corpus of Old English writing.

Type
Essays
Copyright
Copyright © 2021 The Author(s). Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Modern Language Association of America

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