Old English Poetry, Mediaeval Exegesis and Modern Criticism.
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The medieval theory of levels of meaning (literal, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical) is paralleled in modern critical theory and practice, but the parallels are largely unrecognized and undescribed. By juxtaposing in a detailed way Frye's "Ethical Criticism: Theory of Symbols" with the medieval theory it is possible to see more clearly the similarities, at times surprisingly fundamental, between medieval and modern theories and practices. It also reveals the ways in which modern criticism appears to have grown out of medieval exegesis, and taken the cultural place formerly held by it, as well as the intellectual desirability, in the study of Old English or other medieval literature, of modern critical balance between two kinds of consciousness. One is a product of the painstaking work of the literary historian, the other, the possession of the modern critic, cognizant of the thought forms and sensibilities of his own time and interested in describing the significance for modern men of early texts.
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