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date: 21 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This article examines the history of medieval Latin practices of self-writing by exploring them on their own terms. People wrote about themselves in various ways and for various reasons that do not conform to modern assumptions about the nature of the self and the act of writing about it. The development of the self-writing genre is outlined up through and including Petrarch as a tradition of literary practices that themselves constituted the founding conditions of personal interiority. Three dominant and influential modes of self-writing developed in the centuries between Ovid and Petrarch: self-examination, self-portrait, and confessional narrative. The classification carries with it a taxonomy of authors' aims in writing as they emerge from the texts, and the dominant thematic and formal characteristics. A close analysis of central works in each mode is presented through the works of Ovid, Seneca, Peter Abelard, and Petrarch. The tensions and internal contradictions that dominate the works are explored. These tensions reveal the tenuous lines that at times separate these modes. Such indeterminacies do not nullify the value of analyzing these different modes and their evolution over time, if only due to the fact that ancient and medieval authors were strongly aware of these modes and consciously applied them for their purposes.

Keywords: medieval Latin practices, Petrarch, self-writing, personal interiority, nature of self

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