- Finding Italy: Travel, Colonization, and Nation in Vergil’s Aeneid by K. F. B. Fletcher
This lucid and well-written book offers more than it promises. At a surface level, it is a close reading of the first half of the Aeneid, with a focus on the way in which Aeneas and other characters receive information, instructions, and hints about Italy as the goal of the Trojan migration. Although few topics are more crucial today than migration, exile, and wandering across the Mediterranean, some of the results can be predicted, and the close reading in sequential order is reminiscent of a dissertation. Yet Fletcher’s book delivers much overall, because it makes a strong argument for the importance of Italy in the epic, and for the importance of seeing Italy as a contested site, a site still under construction in the Augustan age. It also makes the crucial point that the poem is simultaneously an act of travel through time and through space, and that this double mobility has an effect on the constantly changing image of Italy. In addition, at the level of traditional close reading, we are offered a number of interesting observations about the importance of naming, of landscape details, and of different approaches to the foundation andappropriation of a territory, all of this with the necessary attention to the dramatic context of utterances and visualizations.
The author has a remarkable flair for background references beyond the usual Vergilian bibliography and regularly transcends the dimension of close reading because he is always attentive to the big picture. For example, he includes skillful background discussions of important issues such as colonization, nationalism, ethnicity, imaginative conceptualizations of space, and many other aspects that are crucial to the Aeneid. In this way the book can be recommended not only to those who want to teach a class on the Odyssey (and Argonautica and Aetia) of Aeneas, but also to those interested in colonization, ktisis, mobility and empire, which is to say a number of scholars and readers nowadays. In addition, this book will be useful to people working on the history of Italy as an idea, a long controversy that started with the publication of Vergil’s text: not by chance, the first glimpse of Italy in the poem is marked by a triple repetition of Italia followed by a triple repetition of the word bellum, war (3.521–524; 539–540). [End Page 266]