Measuring the Measuring Rod: Bible and Parabiblical Texts within the History of Medieval Literature
Max Ernst, "Fleur Bleue," non datée, vers 1964, huile sur bois, 21,2 x 27 cm. - Inv. Fondation des Treilles 990.110 - Photographie par Jacqueline Hyde (1922-2013)



How to Cite

Doležalová, L. (2018). Measuring the Measuring Rod: Bible and Parabiblical Texts within the History of Medieval Literature. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (4), 39–58.
Received 2016-10-25
Accepted 2018-01-16
Published 2018-01-19


In spite of the acknowledged crucial role it had in forming medieval written culture, the Bible and a wide-range of parabiblical texts still remain largely ignored by histories of medieval literatures. The reason for this striking omission of an important group of medieval texts from the 'canonical' narratives is, as I argue, the strong bias in favour of national, secular, fictional, and original texts which shapes literary studies – an inheritance from the nineteenth-century nationalising approaches discussed in the first issue of the Interfaces journal. Of course, the discipline of literary studies and therefore selection, hierarchization, and interpretation are complex social, cultural and political processes where almost anything is possible. It is the environment, the interpretive community, in which the interpretation takes place that has a decisive role. And that, too, is constantly being transformed. Thus, there are no final categories and answers because as long as there are interpretive communities, meanings are generated and operate in new ways. That is why the present discussion does not aim to claim that many of the parabiblical texts are literature and should have been included in the canon of medieval literature. Rather, I examine what the nineteenth-century notion of canon did to these texts and how the current questioning and substantial reshaping of notions of canon can transform our understanding of parabiblical texts.

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