Literary allusions abound in Western literature, and those who study them tend to focus on the author’s intentions to demonstrate erudition, embellish meaning, or exert control over tradition. In this original and illuminating book—the first full-scale consideration of literary allusion in any language—Joseph Pucci contends that the key to grasping the meaning of an allusive text is in the hands of the "full-knowing" reader. Pucci shows how allusion authorizes the desires of such a reader—one who is active, engaged, and historically sensitive—at the expense of the author. He considers allusiveness in an array of ancient, medieval, and modern texts by authors as diverse as Homer, Virgil, Catullus, Augustine, Abelard, Dante, Goethe, Baudelaire, and Pound.
Pucci begins with a discussion of modern and contemporary debates about allusion’s function; offers a fresh definition of allusion that emphasizes readerly desire and the manifold meanings occasioned in allusion’s best function; and considers ancient and medieval evidence of readerly power. Although Greeks and Romans described allusion in the context of a powerful reader, Pucci finds that allusion became a legitimated mode of literary discourse only after early Christian readers became meaning- makers, empowered to make sense of dissonant passages of Scripture. In a concluding chapter the author contemplates hypertext and allusion in other media.