What assumptions underlay the various forays made into literature in the classical and medivial periods?
One of the critical assumptions which underscores literature from the Classical and Medieval periods was the definition of consciousness. When reflecting on literature of and about this time period, there were definite works that helped to define who or what human beings were and how they should act. For example, Beowulf gives us classically powerful archetypes as to what defines heroism, strength, honor, and shame. These elements are powerfully compelling when we examine how the role of religion and spirituality also fit into this conception of human beings. At this particular time in literature, the role of individual definition against and with the Divine was another assumption that helped to define many of the works of the time period.
Many people make forays into the classical period, because this period is seen to be one of the apexes of western civilization. The classical world is home to people such as Thucydides, Plato, Sophocles, Aristotle on the Greek side and people like Cicero, Vergil, Augustine on the Latin side. They also produced great works of art and architecture. Therefore, people wanted to go back to the classical world to learn from their great achievements! There was even a phrase for this in the 16th century - "Ad Fontes." It meant: "back to the sources." To be honest, people still go back to the classics.