Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2002.08.14

Narducci on Asso on Narducci.   Response to 2002.07.36

Response by Emanuele Narducci, Università di Firenze (

The review devoted by Paolo Asso to my book Lucano. Un'epica contro l'impero in BMCR 2002.07.36 offers a synthesis of my work which is ample enough, and often reliable, so I'm grateful to the author. About single issues, agreements and disagreements are obviously unavoidable; however, some points need to be stated.

1) It is clear that Asso dislikes my 'polemics' against the literary criticism of 'deconstructionist' stance. Rather than blaming these 'polemics' again and again, it would have been fair to give the reader some information about their cultural and intellectual contents and to discuss, even harshly, these contents. As it is, my 'polemics', which are part of the overall argument and contribution of my book, may seem extraneous and even personally motivated.

2) Asso seems to judge 'arbitrary' my distinction among the different voices of the narrator in Lucan's poem, and he reminds the reader 'that the voice in the poem is ultimately only one -- i.e. Lucan's. Now, I'm not the discoverer of this distinction: one can find it in old, but unsurpassed, papers by Berthe Marti, and, more recently, it has been taken up again, in a more sophisticated way, by Matthew Leigh. More generally, the concept of 'voice' is an important development of literary criticism of the XXth century, even in relation with modern literatures. As for Latin Literature, in the last years there has been some abuse of the concept, and some undue multiplication of the 'voices' (mostly in Vergilian studies). But, in my opinion, the concept maintains unquestionable heuristic validity. So (at least about this issue) Asso is more 'traditionalist' than I am.

3) This is the most important point. Advancing his major disagreement (in relation to the contradictions of the 'character' Pompey), Asso attributes to me the thesis that Lucan did not have a precise poetic program. This is a misrepresentation of what I have written in my book, p. 331; I DO NOT deny the existence of Lucan's poetic program (on the contrary, I write that TWO different poetic programs are woven together in the construction of the 'character' Pompey, and that this leads to some contradictions). What I do deny, is that Lucan's program is the program that some critics have attributed to him: i. e. a program that presents itself as deliberately 'autocontradictory'. One may agree or disagree with this opinion, but a reviewer should represent it for what it is, and not for what it is not.

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