Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mulligan, Bret, et al. "Review of J. H. D. Scourfield, ed. TEXTS AND CULTURE IN LATE ANTIQUITY." BMCR (August 2008).

Scourfield, J. H. D., ed. Texts and Culture in Late Antiquity: Inheritance, Authority, and Change. Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2007.

This is an ambitious collection that merits consideration not only by scholars who specialize in the diverse authors and topics discussed therein, but also by those interested in reception and late antique intellectual culture generally. Introducing the volume, its adept editor J. H. D. Scourfield laments that the "balkanization" of the study of the intellectual culture in late Antiquity has led to an academic climate in which "classical/classicizing, philosophical, and patristic literature may pay each other visits, but still inhabit essentially different territory" (vii). This collection, then, represents an attempt to encourage a move away from this scholarly fragmentation towards "a view of the textual world of late Antiquity which sees it as a single land" (vii). Uniting these sundry essays--which span geography, grammarians, classicizing occasional poetry, Christian cento and paraphrase literature, Neoplatonism, Christian views of the classical tradition, and monasticism--is a common engagement with "texts of special authority", in particular Homer, Virgil, Plato, and the Bible (vii). The topical and methodological diversity typical of an edited volume thus becomes one of the advantages of this collection, which, if not panoptic, nevertheless illustrates the impressive range of reception opportunities available to writers in late Antiquity and provides a sample of the approaches scholars are taking to the field. . . .

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