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170 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 genealogies. Objections to the project of cultural studies over the last few decades have typically come from those who wish to turn back the clock to study literature for itself, as a >self-subsisting artifact.= An example would be Harold Bloom, who became a particularly prominent and public voice on this issue in the 1990s. It might, however, be more useful to question cultural studies from another angle, one suggested by cultural studies itself. Cultural studies insists on the value of looking at things not in their isolation but in their broader cultural context. But culture itself is conceived in splendid isolation. Culture contextualizes but it is not itself contextualized. It=s this conception of culture as totally autonomous that makes one wonder if cultural studies, even as it sees itself questioning modernity, is really deeply embedded in modernity=s dualistic world-view that separates humankind from its earthly habitat. Michael Serres, in The Natural Contract (1992, translated 1995), suggests that what is genuinely new in our time is the unprecedented extent to which history is entering nature and nature is entering history. John Bellamy Foster=s Marx=s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000) reminds the Marxist tradition that historical materialism encompasses a dialectic of nature as well as a socioeconomic dialectic. The recent emergence of ecocriticism and the explosive growth of ASLE (Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) are additional signs that changes are afoot. To revitalize itself for the twenty-first century, cultural studies may need to broaden its focus to find ways to contextualize culture on planet Earth. (ROBERT WESS) Anthony A. Barrett. Livia: First Lady of Imperial Rome Yale University Press. xx, 426. US $45.00 After proving to his own satisfaction that Agrippina, the mother of Nero, did not poison her husband Claudius, Anthony Barrett has turned his talents for historical advocacy to Livia, the wife of Augustus. Since he has less to explain away, he can be more faithful to the ancient evidence. His book falls into three parts. First, Barrett gives a comprehensive survey of Livia=s family and life, setting out in chronological order both the little that is attested and the large amount that has been conjectured about her activities. The second part is thematic: Livia=s private life, Livia as wife, mother, property-owner, and friend and patron, her death and posthumous reputation. The third part comprises more than one hundred pages of appendices on the ancient sources and specific problems. The book is engagingly written and Barrett has considered all the relevant evidence, even translating two medicinal recipes which the late Latin writer Marcellus humanities 171 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 attributes to Livia as an illustration of her >healthy lifestyle.= Livia is an elusive figure. It is not surprising, therefore, that the details carefully assembled by Barrett somehow fail to delineate a fully rounded character. Barrett denounces the Livia of Robert Graves as memorably depicted on television by Siân Phillips as a >popular confusion between the historical and fictional= because the historical Livia did not spend her whole life >plotting, scheming, conniving= and removing enemies by guile and poison. After rejecting the salient features of the Livia of the ancient sources, however, Barrett is left with a colourless personality who, despite her scandalous second marriage, really was the respectable matron depicted in Augustan art and literature so that she seems >at first sight better suited to our modern notions of middle-class respectability than to an active if understated role at the very centre of Rome=s political life.= There is much for the pedant to carp at in Barrett=s book. It contains too many misprints, too many trivial errors of fact, too much sloppy writing: for example, Livia is once carelessly presented as already married to Octavian in 41 BC. A suspiciously high percentage of sentences either have a main verb in the potential or inferential mode (>would have,= >must have,= etc) or a main clause in the form >Tacitus/Suetonius/Dio states/reports.= Moreover, Barrett often slides surreptitiously from hypothesis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 170-172
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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