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Chapter 4 - Robert Holcot and De vetula

Beyond Smalley’s Assessment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2023

Ardis Butterfield
Affiliation:
Yale University
Ian Johnson
Affiliation:
St Andrews University
Andrew Kraebel
Affiliation:
Trinity University
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Summary

There is a fair likelihood that the most widely read work of a late medieval English author was Robert Holcot’s extensive Super Sapientiam Salomonis. More than 170 copies of the work, the standard late medieval commentary on the text, have been identified. But Holcot – and the implications of his work – have remained strangely uninvstigated, since Beryl Smalley first drew him to attention some sixty years ago. (And neither Judson Allen’s study of Holcot’s colleague John Ridewall nor a recent Oxford University Press volume have done much except repeat Smalley’s contentions.) Smalley was a great scholar of Christian exegesis, but her comments on Holcot (and others of her ’classicising friars’, like Ridewall) were handicapped by her very strengths; she could only identify his behaviour, an interest in classical culture the display of which she found tedious, as exegetically divergent. The essay, beyond a close reading of Holcot’s programmatic prologue, examines one of his more diverting ’authorities’, the pseudo-Ovidian De vetula, and explores some reasons for Holcot’s fascination.

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Literary Theory and Criticism in the Later Middle Ages
Interpretation, Invention, Imagination
, pp. 78 - 93
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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