Reading and (Re)Writing the Auctores: Poliziano and the Ancient Roman Miscellany
This essay examins the influence of Aulus Gellius' Noctes Atticae (2nd c. CE) on Angelo Poliziano's Miscellaneorum centuria prima (1489); in particular, it reconsiders that manner in which the aesthetics of varietas are deployed in each as part of the broader literary program. First, by exploring ideas of auctoritas, this essay suggests that Gellius' own preferred categories influenced Poliziano's sense of the canon and contributed to the development of his own authoritative persona throughouth Preface of the centuria prima. Second, in examining the ways in which both authors describe their use of literary diversity, it becomes increasingly evident that both see their prose works as operating within a broader aesthetic of variety. After illustrating how both authors articulate these values, the essay concludes by examining two sets of chapters in the Centuria prima in which variety is put to use for didactic purpose, in a manner similar to the Noctes Atticae. While the influence of Gellius has long been acknowledged, including by Poliziano himself, this essay offers a reading of each author that reveals additional literary purpose underlying their use of the aesthetics of variety.
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