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Glossae – Scholia – Commentarii

Studies on Commenting Texts in Antiquity and Middle Ages


Mieczyslaw Mejor, Katarzyna Jazdzewska and Anna Zajchowska

The role of commentary as a basic method of research used broadly in both Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages still awaits further analysis. Commentary as a research and didactic method becomes especially interesting in a multicultural perspective: were Buddhist and Arabic texts commented in the same way as it was done by late antique and medieval scholars? The extensive medieval commentary literature still awaits scholarly assessment from the perspective of theory of literature as well as methodology and history of various scientific disciplines.
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“The commentary-tradition, indeed, is so rich and varied in itself that we cannot claim to be comprehensive even in dealing with it alone.”

Medieval Literary Theory and Criticism c.1100-c.1375. The Commentary-Tradition. Ed. by A.J. Minnis, A.B. Scott with assist. of D. Wallace, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991, vii.

A need to comment on a text arises when its contents is concealed before the eyes of the recipient and one must unveil it in order to ensure the text’s understanding. This applies especially to sacred, revealed books, the understanding of which is not possible without proper commentaries and explanations, and also to philosophical, scientific, and medical writings which require continual clarification and elucidation of their contents.

Commentaries are also indispensable tools when a text is archaic and therefore remains obscure without the aid of explanatory comments. These types of commentaries were composed since antiquity, since the Hellenistic period in which the language of Homer and Hesiod was already archaic and in large part incomprehensible.

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