Authorial intention in the Middle Ages: an overview of the Golden Legend by Jacopo of Varazze

Until the first decades of the twentieth century, hagiography was seen with mistrust by historians. Its pious aims and fabulous content made us resistant to include them on the list of reliable documents. The methodological innovations that followed thereafter increased the confidence of historians in it and hagiography has become more and more integrated to the testimonies employed by historical analyses. However a problem about the status of the documentation persisted: the doubt concerning the recognition of the performance of authorial intention in the composition of unsigned narratives that originated themselves from relatively unknown writers or whose content seemed to repeat, without any originality, an earlier tradition. This problem was particularly significant in the treatment historians gave to the most widespread medieval hagiographical work, The Golden Legend. Written in the last third of the 13th century and based on ancient hagiographical material compiled by the Dominican Jacobus de Voragine, the work was an immediate and booming success – with about a thousand Latin manuscripts coming from various regions of Western Christendom. Here we intend to discuss the existence of authorial intention in its composition in a twofold manner. First, we will criticize one of the historiographical trends that, between the 1960s and the 1990s, was most directly responsible for the dissolution of the notion of authorship in medieval documentation: the studies related to popular culture or folklore. Second, we will discuss how Jacobus de Voragine, despite using archaic material that he was mostly limited to copying, was capable of producing new meanings and functions proper to the interests of the then relatively young Order of preachers.

Citação completa

ALMEIDA, Néri de Barros. Authorial intention in the Middle Ages: an overview of the Golden Legend by Jacopo of Varazze. Global Journal of Human Social Sciences, v. 14, p. 11-20, set. 2014.