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European Literary Careers: The Author from Antiquity to the Renaissance (review)
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170 Reviews Parergon 21.1 (2004) In confining himself to Spiritual Franciscans, Burr tends to focus on the men within the order, engaged in acrimonious political conflict, rather than on a broader debate that was tearing apart Latin Christendom by the early fourteenth century: how one could remain loyal to Christian poverty and yet support an institution committed to holding power within society. Little wonder that these women preferred to identify themselves with Jesus rather than with any institution that he founded. Constant J. Mews Monash University Cheney, Patrick, and Frederick. A. de Armas, eds, European Literary Careers: The Author from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Toronto, Toronto University Press, 2002; cloth; pp. x, 366; RRP US$65; ISBN 0802047793. ‘[T]he volume does not narrate a formal or continuous history of literary careers from the Greeks through the Spanish Golden Age… one of the primary goals of the present volume is not to circumnavigate the career globe but simply to open it up for expansion’ (pp. 14-15). With these remarks, co-editor Patrick Cheney underlines the remarkable scope, as well as the unavoidable limitations, of such an ambitious project. However, what this collection of essays does offer is impressive indeed. European Literary Careers comprises essays dealing with diverse concepts of authorship, and manifestations of the literary life, variously conceived as a generic progression, a personal dedication to a project – religious, artistic, patriotic – or an intertextual process of self-definition. Wide-ranging in terms of genre and historical period, the essays address a diversity of literary careers from Classical Greece and Rome to the writings of the Church Fathers; from the work of Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch in Italy, Clément Marot in France, and Chaucer, Lydgate, and Spenser in England, to an intriguing cluster of essays on different modes of authorial self-definition in Golden Age Spain; lastly, the collection ends with a discussion of women writers in early modern England, focusing on Mary Sidney, Anne Dowriche, Aemilia Lanyer, and Margaret Cavendish – an appropriate coda to a project which makes a virtue of its open-endedness. In ‘Greek Lives and Roman Careers’, Joseph Farrell contrasts the limited, indeed limiting, role of biography in the construction and interpretation of a writer’s opus, in Classical Greece, on the one hand, and the emergence of the Reviews 171 Parergon 21.1 (2004) concept of a literary career, based on the aristocratic (political) cursus honorum, in late-Republican Rome, on the other. Thus, in Greece, a rigid correlation between the author and the literary persona, associated with particular literary genres or styles, led to the selective, critical suppression of writings – and readings – which did not fit a pre-established idea of the author’s personality. This belief that a poet was ideally and consistently suited to work in a particular form, was, in turn, replaced by the Roman ideal of the poet’s progression from lower to higher genres, a model which Farrell shows was not simply inaugurated by its greatest Classical exemplar, Virgil. Mark Vessey focuses on the emergence of the ‘category … of “Christian writing”’, and, hence, of the ideal of the Christian writer – defined through Saint Jerome’s dualistic rejection of the pre-Christian cultural heritage, and, founded on this rejection, the abandonment of a model of literary generic progression, in favour of an exclusive commitment to life-long ‘writing about scripture’ (pp. 53-56). Vessey explains that such a consuming commitment, which elevated the evangelist, as ‘scribe’, to the status of divinely-inspired prophet, paradoxically resulted in both an ideal of anonymity and self-sacrifice, and the establishment of a long-standing canon of holy scriptures, and with it the literary careers of some of the Church Fathers who produced them: Jerome, Augustine, Cassiodorus, and Bede. Other essays are much more specific in theme or focus. Anne Lake Prescott examines the poetic project of ‘Following David’, as she terms the evocation of the David figure, and the treatment of the Psalms, by religious poets, Clément Marot and Gillaume du Bartas, for whom the theme presented both an ‘alternative to secular literature and … a means of ascent to something new’, in terms of a (Christianized) Virgilian perception of the...