The Sovereignty of Wisdom: Boethius’ Consolation in the Light of Folklore

in Mnemosyne
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This article argues that Boethius’ Consolation can be read in a folklore key as an allegorical version of the Adventure of the Hero. The text has been the object of analysis often enough, but never, to the author’s knowledge, from the perspective proposed here. The article begins by discussing the shortcomings of certain critical positions regarding the identity of Philosophy. It then applies to the Consolation tools taken from the field of folklore studies—the narrative model proposed in Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale, and the thematic pattern of Sovereignty. Analysis in this light provides evidence that Philosophy is an embodiment of Sovereignty herself, a symbolic figure usually studied by Celtic and Scandinavian scholars, but one which demonstrably plays a key role in Classical literatures as well. This approach is shown to clarify several major aspects of Boethius’ text: the peculiar interplay of its metaphors, the role of Philosophy, the narrative structure within which she exists, and the significance of the various motifs and voice associated with her.

The Sovereignty of Wisdom: Boethius’ Consolation in the Light of Folklore

in Mnemosyne



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Marenbon 200398.


Relihan 20074.


Relihan 20075.


Relihan 200715.


Relihan 200774.


Relihan 200768.


Relihan 1990192; for similar arguments see Relihan 2007 at 31 38 54 68-9. I have slightly modified his references to bring them in line with the system used in this article. ‘1P1.3’ stands for Book 1 Prose 1 line 3 in Tester’s edition. ‘1M1.15’ for Book 1 Metre 1 line 15.


Chadwick 1980177.


Relihan 20075.


Relihan 20075


Courcelle 1970. See also Silk 1939 and especially Gruber 1978.


Courcelle 1970249.


Crabbe 1981239.


Gruber 197840. Also Gruber 1969 on the importance of conventional topoi in the tradition of visions and epiphanies.


As defined in Otto 1917the Numinous is not to be equated with the supernatural but with that which cannot be grasped rationally and is hence a source of wonder and awe.


On the pattern see Aguirre 1998 and 2002.


Breatnach 1953.


Luc. 1.185-205. See Aguirre 2008.


Propp 196842.


See Aguirre 1993.


Fagles’ (1990) translation.


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