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Ovid before Exile Cover

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Ovid before Exile

Art and Punishment in the Metamorphoses

Patricia J. Johnson

The epic Metamorphoses, Ovid’s most renowned work, has regained its stature among the masterpieces of great poets such as Vergil, Horace, and Tibullus. Yet its irreverent tone and bold defiance of generic boundaries set the Metamorphoses apart from its contemporaries. Ovid before Exile provides a compelling new reading of the epic, examining the text in light of circumstances surrounding the final years of Augustus’ reign, a time when a culture of poets and patrons was in sharp decline, discouraging and even endangering artistic freedom of expression.
    Patricia J. Johnson demonstrates how the production of art—specifically poetry—changed dramatically during the reign of Augustus. By Ovid’s final decade in Rome, the atmosphere for artistic work had transformed, leading to a drop in poetic production of quality. Johnson shows how Ovid, in the episodes of artistic creation that anchor his Metamorphoses, responded to his audience and commented on artistic circumstances in Rome.

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Pandora's Senses

The Feminine Character of the Ancient Text

Vered Lev Kenaan

The notorious image of Pandora haunts mythology: a woman created as punishment for the crimes of man, she is the bearer of hope yet also responsible for the Earth’s desolation. She binds together perpetuating dichotomies that underlie the most fundamental aspects of the Western canon:  beauty and evil, body and soul, depth and superficiality, truth and lie. Speaking in multiplicity, Pandora emerges as the first sign of female complexity.
     In this compelling study, Vered Lev Kenaan offers a radical revision of the Greek myth of the first woman. She argues that Pandora leaves a decisive mark on ancient poetics and shows that we can unravel the profound impact of Pandora’s image once we recognize that Pandora embodies the very idea of the ancient literary text. Locating the myth of the first woman right at the heart of feminist interrogation of gender and textuality, Pandora’s Senses moves beyond a feminist critique of masculine hegemony by challenging the reading of Pandora as a one-dimensional embodiment of the misogynist vision of the feminine. Uncovering Pandora as a textual principle operating outside of the feminine, Lev Kenaan shows the centrality of this iconic figure among the poetics of such central genres as the cosmological and didactic epic, the Platonic dialogue, the love elegy, and the ancient novel. Pandora’s Senses innovates our understanding of gender as a critical lens through which to view ancient literature.

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Perfidy and Passion

Reintroducing the Iliad

Mark Buchan

Homer’s Iliad is often considered a poem of blunt truthfulness, his characters’ motivation pleasingly simple. A closer look, however, reveals a complex interplay of characters who engage in an awful lot of lies. Beginning with Achilles, who hatches a secret plot to destroy his own people, Mark Buchan traces motifs of deception and betrayal throughout the poem. Homer’s heroes offer bluster, their passion linked to and explained by their lack of authenticity. Buchan reads Homer’s characters between the lies, showing how the plot is structured individual denial and what cannot be said.

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Philology and Its Histories

Edited by Sean Gurd

There has never been any shortage of interest in philology, its status, its history, or its origins. Today, after more than twenty years of serial “returns to philology” under the banner of deconstruction, the new medieval studies, critical bibliography, and a particular kind of globally aware activist criticism, philology has again become available as a respectable posture for contemporary literary scholars. But what is “philology,” and how can we attend to it, either as a contemporary practice or as an age-old object of endorsement and critique? In this volume, edited by Sean Gurd, noted scholars discuss the history of philology from antiquity to the present. This book addresses a wide variety of authors, documents, and movements, among them Greek papyri, Latin textual traditions, the Renaissance, eighteenth-century antiquarianism, and deconstruction. It is too easy to see philology as the bearer of an antiquated but forceful authority. When philologists take up the tools of textual criticism, they contribute to the very form of texts; seeking to articulate the protocols of correct interpretation, they aspire to be the legislators of reading practice. Nonetheless, Philology and Its Histories argues that philology is not a conservative or ideologically loaded master-discourse, but a tradition of searching, fundamentally ungrounded, dealing with the insecurity of questions rather than the safety of answers. For good or ill, philology is where literature happens; we do well to pay heed to it and to its changes over the course of millennia.

Philosophers in the

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Philosophers in the "Republic"

Plato's Two Paradigms

by Roslyn Weiss

In Plato's Republic, Socrates contends that philosophers make the best rulers because only they behold with their mind's eye the eternal and purely intelligible Forms of the Just, the Noble, and the Good. When, in addition, these men and women are endowed with a vast array of moral, intellectual, and personal virtues and are appropriately educated, surely no one could doubt the wisdom of entrusting to them the governance of cities. Although it is widely-and reasonably-assumed that all the Republic's philosophers are the same, Roslyn Weiss argues in this boldly original book that the Republic actually contains two distinct and irreconcilable portrayals of the philosopher.

According to Weiss, Plato's two paradigms of the philosopher are the "philosopher by nature" and the "philosopher by design." Philosophers by design, as the allegory of the Cave vividly shows, must be forcibly dragged from the material world of pleasure to the sublime realm of the intellect, and from there back down again to the "Cave" to rule the beautiful city envisioned by Socrates and his interlocutors. Yet philosophers by nature, described earlier in the Republic, are distinguished by their natural yearning to encounter the transcendent realm of pure Forms, as well as by a willingness to serve others-at least under appropriate circumstances. In contrast to both sets of philosophers stands Socrates, who represents a third paradigm, one, however, that is no more than hinted at in the Republic. As a man who not only loves "what is" but is also utterly devoted to the justice of others-even at great personal cost-Socrates surpasses both the philosophers by design and the philosophers by nature. By shedding light on an aspect of the Republic that has escaped notice, Weiss's new interpretation will challenge Plato scholars to revisit their assumptions about Plato's moral and political philosophy.

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Playing the Farmer

Representations of Rural Life in Vergil’s Georgics

Philip Thibodeau

Playing the Farmer reinvigorates our understanding of Vergil’s Georgics, a vibrant work written by Rome’s premier epic poet shortly before he began the Aeneid. Setting the Georgics in the social context of its day, Philip Thibodeau for the first time connects the poem’s idyllic, and idealized, portrait of rustic life and agriculture with changing attitudes toward the countryside in late Republican and early Imperial Rome. He argues that what has been seen as a straightforward poem about agriculture is in fact an enchanting work of fantasy that elevated, and sometimes whitewashed, the realities of country life. Drawing from a wide range of sources, Thibodeau shows how Vergil’s poem reshaped agrarian ideals in its own time, and how it influenced Roman poets, philosophers, agronomists, and orators. Playing the Farmer brings a fresh perspective to a work that was praised by Dryden as "the best poem by the best poet."

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The Poetics of Consent

Collective Decision Making and the Iliad

David F. Elmer

The Poetics of Consent breaks new ground in Homeric studies by interpreting the Iliad’s depictions of political action in terms of the poetic forces that shaped the Iliad itself. Arguing that consensus is a central theme of the epic, David Elmer analyzes in detail scenes in which the poem’s three political communities—Achaeans, Trojans, and Olympian gods—engage in the process of collective decision making. These scenes reflect an awareness of the negotiation involved in reconciling rival versions of the Iliad over centuries. They also point beyond the Iliad’s world of gods and heroes to the here-and-now of the poem’s performance and reception, in which the consensus over the shape and meaning of the Iliadic tradition is continuously evolving. Elmer synthesizes ideas and methods from literary and political theory, classical philology, anthropology, and folklore studies to construct an alternative to conventional understandings of the Iliad’s politics. The Poetics of Consent reveals the ways in which consensus and collective decision making determined the authoritative account of the Trojan War that we know as the Iliad.

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The Political Biographies of Cornelius Nepos

S. Rex Stem

The Roman writer Cornelius Nepos was a friend of Cicero and Catullus and other first-century BCE authors, and portions of his encyclopedic work On Famous Men are the earliest surviving biographies written in Latin. In The Political Biographies of Cornelius Nepos, Rex Stem presents Nepos as a valuable witness to the late Republican era, whose biographies share the exemplary republican political perspective of his contemporaries Cicero and Livy. Stem argues that Nepos created the genre of grouped political biographies in order to characterize renowned Mediterranean figures as role models for Roman leaders, and he shows how Nepos invested his biographies with moral and political arguments against tyranny. This book, the first to regard Nepos as a serious thinker in his own right, also functions as a general introduction to Nepos, placing him in his cultural context. Stem examines Nepos' contributions to the growth of biography, and he defends Nepos from his critics at the same time that he lays out the political significance and literary innovation of Nepos' writings. Accessible to advanced undergraduates, this volume is addressed to a general audience of classicists and ancient historians, as well as those broadly interested in biography, historiography, and political thought.

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The Primacy of Vision in Virgil's Aeneid

By Riggs Alden Smith

One of the masterpieces of Latin and, indeed, world literature, Virgil's Aeneid was written during the Augustan “renaissance” of architecture, art, and literature that redefined the Roman world in the early years of the empire. This period was marked by a transition from the use of rhetoric as a means of public persuasion to the use of images to display imperial power. Taking a fresh approach to Virgil's epic poem, Riggs Alden Smith argues that the Aeneid fundamentally participates in the Augustan shift from rhetoric to imagery because it gives primacy to vision over speech as the principal means of gathering and conveying information as it recounts the heroic adventures of Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome. Working from the theories of French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Smith characterizes Aeneas as a voyant-visible, a person who both sees and is seen and who approaches the world through the faculty of vision. Engaging in close readings of key episodes throughout the poem, Smith shows how Aeneas repeatedly acts on what he sees rather than what he hears. Smith views Aeneas' final act of slaying Turnus, a character associated with the power of oratory, as the victory of vision over rhetoric, a triumph that reflects the ascendancy of visual symbols within Augustan society. Smith's new interpretation of the predominance of vision in the Aeneid makes it plain that Virgil's epic contributes to a new visual culture and a new mythology of Imperial Rome.

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Private Lives, Public Deaths

Antigone and the Invention of Individuality

Jonathan Strauss

In Private Lives, Public Deaths, Jonathan Strauss shows how Sophocles' tragedy Antigone crystallized the political, intellectual, and aesthetic forces of an entire historical moment--fifth-century Athens--into one idea: the value of a single, living person. That idea existed, however, only as a powerful but unconscious desire. Drawing on classical studies, Hegel, and contemporary philosophical interpretations of this pivotal drama, Strauss argues that Antigone's tragedy, and perhaps all classical tragedy, represents a failure to satisfy this longing. To the extent that the value of a living individual remains an open question, what Sophocles attempted to imagine still escapes our understanding. Antigone is, in this sense, a text not from the past, but from our future.

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