The Full-Knowing Reader

Allusion and the Power of the Reader in the Western Literary Tradition

Joseph Pucci

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Literary allusions abound in Western literature, and those who study them tend to focus on the author’s intentions to demonstrate erudition, embellish meaning, or exert control over tradition. In this original and illuminating book—the first full-scale consideration of literary allusion in any language—Joseph Pucci contends that the key to grasping the meaning of an allusive text is in the hands of the "full-knowing" reader. Pucci shows how allusion authorizes the desires of such a reader—one who is active, engaged, and historically sensitive—at the expense of the author. He considers allusiveness in an array of ancient, medieval, and modern texts by authors as diverse as Homer, Virgil, Catullus, Augustine, Abelard, Dante, Goethe, Baudelaire, and Pound.

Pucci begins with a discussion of modern and contemporary debates about allusion’s function; offers a fresh definition of allusion that emphasizes readerly desire and the manifold meanings occasioned in allusion’s best function; and considers ancient and medieval evidence of readerly power. Although Greeks and Romans described allusion in the context of a powerful reader, Pucci finds that allusion became a legitimated mode of literary discourse only after early Christian readers became meaning- makers, empowered to make sense of dissonant passages of Scripture. In a concluding chapter the author contemplates hypertext and allusion in other media.

Joseph Pucci is associate professor of classics and in the Program in Medieval Studies at Brown University.

"Pucci's prose style is admirably readable, lucid, and engaging, with enough surprises to keep even an empowered reader enthralled. I think this opus significant enough to be in every library."—Daryl Hine, editor of Ovid's Heroines: A Verse Translation of the Heroides

"Pucci’s Full-Knowing Reader is a interesting and worthwhile book, especially for those especially for those interested in the classical tradition in later literature. . . . It is a valuable book which any college or university library should own."—Carol U. Merriam, Classical Outlook

"Pucci's thoughtful study contributes both to theoretical discussion and to the understanding of specific classical (and other) writings. . . . This book should help revitalize study of this essential topic."—Simon Goldhill, Classical World

ISBN: 9780300194661
Publication Date: June 1, 1998
288 pages, 6 x 9