Exploratory Ductus: Experimentation and Religious Orthopraxis in Old English and the Aetas Ovidiana

Joseph Paul Rudolph, Fordham University


This dissertation studies four texts: the Exeter Book, the collected poems of Baudri of Bourgueil, the Historia Vie Hierosolimitane of Gilo of Paris, and the anonymous eleventh-century Vita Ædwardi Regis. It examines and seeks to define a specific feature of these texts, which the author calls “exploratory ductus.” By exploratory ductus, he means the freewheeling, experimental, non-teleological course followed by the literary texts studied here. This feature is set against the backdrop of the rhetorical and religious orthopractic traditions of medieval monasticism and other similar institutions. Exploratory ductus exists, the author shows, in a productive tension with this orthopraxis: the texts the author examines shun, often explicitly, standard orthopractic modes and goals, yet draw upon these modes in surprising ways and reach these goals by means of –– not despite –– their exploratory natures. This dissertation is also a series of case studies in Ovid’s medieval reception, and the author revises several aspects of the common account of the eleventh century beginnings of the so-called “Aetas Ovidiana.” Ovid, this dissertation argues, was a natural fit as a model for the sort of exploratory and potentially transgressive mode of the texts studied here. As such, the author suggests that we can see the uptick in the popularity of Ovidian texts during the late eleventh and early twelfth centuries not as the rising of a new, secular spirit but as a development of medieval religious culture.

Subject Area

Medieval literature|Classical literature|British and Irish literature

Recommended Citation

Rudolph, Joseph Paul, "Exploratory Ductus: Experimentation and Religious Orthopraxis in Old English and the Aetas Ovidiana" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI28091201.