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The Roman Self in Late Antiquity

Prudentius and the Poetics of the Soul

Marc Mastrangelo

Publication Year: 2008

The Roman Self in Late Antiquity for the first time situates Prudentius within a broad intellectual, political, and literary context of fourth-century Rome. As Marc Mastrangelo convincingly demonstrates, the late-fourth-century poet drew on both pagan and Christian intellectual traditions—especially Platonism, Vergilian epic poetics, and biblical exegesis—to define a new vision of the self for the newly Christian Roman Empire. Mastrangelo proposes an original theory of Prudentius's allegorical poetry and establishes Prudentius as a successor to Vergil. Employing recent approaches to typology and biblical exegesis as well as the most current theories of allusion and intertextuality in Latin poetry, he interprets the meaning and influence of Prudentius's work and positions the poet as a vital author for the transmission of the classical tradition to the early modern period. This provocative study challenges the view that poetry in the fourth century played a subordinate role to patristic prose in forging Christian Roman identity. It seeks to restore poetry to its rightful place as a crucial source for interpreting the rich cultural and intellectual life of the era.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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pp. vii-viii

The love of literature and its history is behind the research and writing of this book. Such a sentiment is necessary these days—though by no means sufficient —in order to publish a book of literary criticism that focuses on a noncanonical, ancient author. ...

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pp. 1-13

With these programmatic words the late antique poet Prudentius announces that his poetry will allow him to transcend his oppressed, earthly condition and achieve salvation. The passage perhaps would have reminded Prudentius’ readers of the poet Horace, who, nearly four centuries earlier, had made a similar boast that his poetry would...

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1. An Epic Successor? Prudentius, Aeneid 6, and Roman Epic Tradition

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pp. 14-40

The Psychomachia’s linguistic borrowing from the Aeneid1 has led critics to rely on their interpretation of the Aeneid when approaching the Psychomachia. The implicit result of this working assumption is the proposition that the way in which one reads the Aeneid directly affects one’s reading of the Psychomachia.2 ...

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2. Christian History and the Narrative of Rome

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pp. 41-81

The Psychomachia’s deep engagement with the Aeneid exposes Prudentius’ ambitious epic program and culminates in a redefinition of pagan Roman epic within the fourth-century Christian context. Rather than rejecting the Roman literary past, Prudentius’ work follows Roman epic tradition and provides a new definition of national identity.1 ...

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3. Christian Theology and the Making of Allegory

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pp. 82-120

Most critics agree that the narrative use of allegory is Prudentius’ main contribution to literary history.1 The Psychomachia illustrates Northrope Frye’s observation that allegory occurs ‘‘when the events of a narrative obviously and continuously refer to another simultaneous structure of events or ideas, whether historical events, moral or philosophical ideas, or natural phenom-...

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4. Pagan Philosophy and the Making of Allegory

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pp. 121-159

As his appropriation of Vergil’s Aeneid shows, Prudentius does not hesitate to embrace his pagan literary heritage. In this chapter, I explore further the pagan intellectual inheritance that is present—and underrepresented in the scholarly literature—in Prudentius’ poetry with a focus on the Psychomachia. By ‘‘pagan intellectual inheritance’’ I mean the rich philosophical tradition that Pruden-...

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Epilogue. Self, Poetry, and Literary History in Prudentius

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pp. 160-175

I have argued for the centrality of typology in understanding Prudentius’ poetry. The preceding chapters suggest various ways to show how typology is intrinsic to the poetry’s literary ambitions, historiographical positioning, and intellectual inheritance. Typology and figurative reading (and writing) form the intellectual and artistic methodology of Prudentius’s poetry.1 ...


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pp. 177-238

Works Cited

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pp. 239-249


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pp. 251-259

E-ISBN-13: 9781421402406
E-ISBN-10: 1421402408
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801887222
Print-ISBN-10: 0801887224

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2008