By Harry Blamires (auth.)
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The fundamental doctrines of Creation and the Fall, Incarnation and Redemption, are presented through the revelation recorded in Scripture. As such, within the province of faith, they make their call to the human will for obedient acceptance. This is a matter of moral choice, not of intellectual discovery. But in no sense does this primacy of faith produce a collision with the demand of the human reason. There are many truths about the existence of God as creator and sustainer of the world which the human reason can arrive at without recourse to revelation.
2 The wickedness of gods implicitly authorised human wickedness. Their vices gave the spectators and readers 'imitable example'. It was small wonder that Augustine cited with approval Plato's exclusion of poets from the well-governed city. His grounds are like Plato's, the question of moral influence. For crimes will no longer be crimes, he declares in his Confessions, when 'whoso commits them might seem to imitate not abandoned men, but the celestial gods'. 3 Pagan literature was thus sharply distinguished from the one literature necessary to the Christian, the Scriptures.
He also wrote Ars Minor, a book introducing the parts of speech and using a catechetical form, and Ars Major, or Secunda, which goes on to analyse qualities and defects of style. Donatus's work Ars Grammatica was so widely used that the term 'Donat' or 'Donet' came to be adopted generally for any instructive manual. There is a celebrated passage in Langland's Piers Plowman where 'Covetise' confesses 'I joined the drapers to learn my donet', meaning to acquire the tricks of the trade. Donatus's work on Virgil was a considerable influence on the fourth-century grammarian and editor Servius, who wrote his own commentary on Virgil with his eye on educational use.
A History of Literary Criticism by Harry Blamires (auth.)