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The Space that RemainsReading of Latin Poetry in Late Antiquity$
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Aaron Pelttari

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780801452765

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801452765.001.0001

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Open Texts and Layers of Meaning

Open Texts and Layers of Meaning

(p.73) Chapter 3 Open Texts and Layers of Meaning
The Space that Remains

Aaron Pelttari

Cornell University Press

This chapter applies Umberto Eco's idea of an open text to a series of late antique poems. The figural poetry of Optatianus Porphyrius, the allegorical Psychomachia of Prudentius, and the sixteen surviving Vergilian centos create space for the reader to resolve the discrepancies and gaps within the text. It begins with Optatian's figural poetry, which provide the most coherent example of openness. Three layers stand in sharp relief on the page; insofar as they do not depend upon secondary meanings or intertextual designs, they are each self-contained. The chapter moves on to Psychomachia's personification allegory, which involves a secondary meaning in dialogue with the surface narrative of the poem. It then discusses the cento, which is in a way the most complex of these forms. The Vergilian centos transfer a more local sense of openness onto the literary past and thereby directly engage the history of Latin literature. In this way, they give a more expansive view of the openness of these distinctively late antique forms of textuality.

Keywords:   Umberto Eco, open text, late antique poems, poetry, Optatianus Porphyrius, Psychomachia, Prudentius, centos, Vergil

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