“The task of exegesis lay in working out the true historical reference since revelation no longer consisted in the words, but exclusively in the subject matter to which the words referred" ("The Sensus Literalis of Scripture," 89; italics my own)As a result,the aim of the interpreter was to reconstruct the original occasion of the historical reference on the basis of which the truth of the biblical text could be determined. In sum, the sensus literalis had become sensus originalis (ibid.).
NB: In the quote I highlight the word exclusively as I am conscious of my previous thread on the text's "spiritual sense," which I identified with the text's ultimate referent (regardless of its nature, i.e. historical, theological, or whatever). The crux for theological interpretation lies not in focussing either exclusively on the text (literal sense) or on its referent (spiritual sense, historical sense), but on the interelation of the two. To identify the plain sense with the historical sense (i.e. to collapse textual meaning with a certain understanding of its referent), as classic historical criticism does, is to prejudice interpretation from the outset, as it already assumes what the nature of the text's referent is.
Next I will post on the fascinating parallels between historical criticism and medieval allegory!