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Reviewed by:
  • Generic Enrichment in Vergil and Horace
  • Timothy S. Johnson
S. J. Harrison . Generic Enrichment in Vergil and Horace. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Pp. viii, 262. $85.00 (hb.). ISBN 978-0-19-920358-1.

Generic enrichment occurs whenever a poet incorporates other genres or subgenres ("guests") within the primary genre ("host"). The tag is new but not the interpretive paradigm. Harrison's generic enrichment is similar, for example, to A. Nightingale's reading of Plato (Genres in Dialogue [Cambridge 1996]) and G. Davis' "assimilation" (Polyhymnia [Berkley 1991]). Some will [End Page 344] think it essentially the same as the "mixing" of genres (W. Kroll, Studien zum Verständnis der römischen Literatur [Stuttgart 1924]).

Then what is to be gained here? Much. Harrison's readable overview of genre theory (no small accomplishment) pinpoints the irony plaguing the application of genre to texts (chapter 1). Literary types define themselves by referencing other types. Inclusion (enrichment), therefore, is a necessary element within the self-referential nature of generic definitions. This begs the question—how much inclusion can occur before a genre breaks down? Harrison leaves the question open, although he carefully maintains that in Augustan poetry there are enough specific markers (title, meter, form, addressee, narrative voice, theme, and open metageneric debate) to distinguish host from guest. This is more convincing for Vergil's epic, but the multiplicity that defines lyric makes it harder to sustain for Horace. Harrison is most original and controversial, however, when he uses the irony inherent in genre theory to argue that enrichment often marks the climax of a poetic type. When enrichment is practiced so extensively by the Augustans (39–19 B.C. ; p. iii, 18), the expansion revitalizes the genre, but also fundamentally shifts the nature of the genre for subsequent poets. In short, epic and lyric can never be the same after Vergil and Horace. Thus generic enrichment represents well the paradoxical tension in the Callimachean dictum (Aetia fr. 1.21–24 Pf.): "fatness" and "thinness" are on display in Vergil and Horace simultaneously.

The bulk of Harrison's work lies in the proofs. Harrison in chapters 2–7 moves back and forth from Vergil to Horace (Eclogues; Satires/Epodes; Georgics; Odes; Aeneid), laying out specific examples of intergeneric play. The seemingly objective generic markers quickly turn subjective. One example illustrates. Harrison (189, n.75) slightly corrects M. Lowrie (Horace's Narrative Odes [1997] 286–88) on Carm. 3.11: "[Lowrie] sees this plot as strongly elegiac, but there seems little apart from the last stanza which points to elegy." I agree with Lowrie. In the next to last stanzas, Horace employs his favorite variation on the paraklausithyron, a motif common in elegy—so Harrison notes (212)—when Hypermestra sets her husband Lynceus free and allows herself to be shut inside, an inclusa amatrix (42–46; see Carm. 1.25, 3.15, 16; 4.13). Hypermestra becomes the erotic lyric heroine because she breaks ranks with her sisters and in un-elegiac fashion sacrifices herself for her lover. Horace, with a touch of the tragic, describes Hypermestra as a better elegist than her sisters (mollior illis) because she knows how to adapt and take on the traditional male role of the rejected lover. If Harrison were to agree that there is an elegiac complement to the tragic, it would only strengthen his thesis: the elegiac tendencies in this lyric are another example of enrichment. Most disagreement over Harrison's examples will occur, as above, when he attempts to exclude the enrichment other readers see.

There are customary quibbles along the way with the mixed quality of the translations (compare "he the permanently future county-dweller," Epode 2 [115], with the laudable rendering of the difficult Carm. 4.2) and the thinness of bibliography (Putnam's Poetic Interplay [Princeton: 2006] perhaps appeared too late). And Horace once again loses out: Harrison overall pays more attention to Vergil's weightier epic. Horace does not escape the order of the genres no matter how hard he works to expand the "lower" register. Personally, I wonder why Harrison does not address Horace's Odes to Vergil (1.3; arguably 4.12), since they are...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9234
Print ISSN
0009-8418
Pages
pp. 344-346
Launched on MUSE
2009-06-03
Open Access
No
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