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Obscurity in Medieval Texts
  • Lucie Doležalová
  • Jeff Rider, Wesleyan University
  • Alessandro Zironi
Modern readers of medieval texts often find them obscure. Some of this obscurity is accidental and inevitable due to the historical and cultural distance that separates modern readers from medieval authors, but medieval readers and authors also appear to have simply had a higher tolerance for textual obscurity than we do and even to have viewed obscurity as desirable and a virtue. They did not believe that obscurity could ever be eradicated and were not scared of the indescribable, indivisible, and ungraspable; they accepted reality as complex and ultimately unintelligible. Obscurity was not simply a riddle to be solved. It was a source of wonder, questioning and a search for meaning. The essays collected in this volume discuss the deliberate creation of obscurities within particular communities, the (often obscure) medieval strategies for interpreting obscurities, and contemporary interpretations of medieval obscurities, focusing on two kinds of persistent obscurity in medieval texts. One is a deliberate enigma that seems to have been created to provoke interpretation. The second is found in texts that were probably not meant to be enigmatic but be¬came obscure when transferred to a new community without any fixed interpretation attached to them. These obscure texts continued to be handed down perhaps through inertia or because of the authority attached to them.
Publication Date
Lucie Doležalová, Jeff Rider, and Alessandro Zironi
Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit
Medium Aevum Quotidianum
Citation Information
Lucie Doležalová, Jeff Rider, and Alessandro Zironi, eds. Obscurity in Medieval Texts. Krems: Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit, 2013.