By Joseph Anthony Mazzeo
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Additional resources for Varieties of Interpretation
It was, however, distinguished from ordinary allegory in that the historicity of the text was neither ignored nor denied. It is clear that such an exegesis could only have been applied to a sacred text, which gives us the historical foreordination by God of the events of sacred history. If Dante claims to write this allegory of theologians, it is simply because he claims prophetic insight into the divine ordination of events. No one who truly understood this mode of typological historical interpretation would have applied it to Ovid.
The great story not only unites the sublime with the humble in subject matter; it is written in a language, koine Greek, which was not the language of the trained literary intellectual of the period, but the lingua franca of the hellenized East. To the extent that this story dominated a writer's Style as Interpretation 37 imagination, he was open to ignoring the correlation of style and subject matter. Hence, medieval literature often enough falls out of the classical pattern. After Curtius' European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, few students of literature have any excuse for not realizing the pervasive influence of classical antiquity on the Middle Ages, but Auerbach's thesis is in its essentials correct.
If Dante claims to write this allegory of theologians, it is simply because he claims prophetic insight into the divine ordination of events. No one who truly understood this mode of typological historical interpretation would have applied it to Ovid. Such a secular text would certainly have an allegorical meaning in addition to its literal meaning, but only the Sacred Text could have four meanings, since only here are the events themselves signifiers of further events. St. Augustine, as well as his predecessors in the exegetical art, clearly had in mind St.