Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2010.08.46

Rolando Ferri, J. Mira Seo, Katharina Volk (ed.), Callida Musa: Papers on Latin Literature in Honor of R. Elaine Fantham. Materiali e discussioni per l'analisi dei testi classici 61.   Pisa/Roma:  Fabrizio Serra editore, 2009.  Pp. 270.  ISBN 9788862271752.  €70.00.  

Reviewed by Stephen M. Kershner, Denison University (

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Festschriften, by nature, celebrate the real stars of academic study, those scholars who have had a greater effect than most on the scholarship that follows them and have opened doors for a real understanding of a topic, a period, or a methodology. Yet, few who receive them are more deserving of such commemoration than the celebranda of this volume: R. Elaine Fantham. This volume collects 16 papers by Fantham's colleagues and former students from over 54 years of academic life. The topical range of the papers is quite impressive, moving from Roman Comedy through Catullus, Virgil, and Ovid to Seneca, Statius, Lucan, and Macrobius. As the preface to the work points out, "[Fantham]'s scholarly range is startlingly comprehensive" (11) and, thus, the broad range of offerings serves as a fitting tribute to her influence on an expansive sweep of scholarship on Latin Literature. Further, the quality of these papers is uniformly excellent; none of the papers fails to at least interest the reader and most offer new readings of texts or authors that will perhaps soon become influential interpretations for future scholarship. As there is no real unifying theme for the papers in this volume, beyond their dedication to Professor Fantham, in the review that follows I will offer general assessments of each paper individually, attempting to show how each contributes to the broader scholarship of which they are a part.

After the volume's introduction, in which the three editors put the astounding academic output of Professor Fantham's career in context, Rolando Ferri presents a paper on the dictional and sociolinguistic strategies of politeness as used in Latin Comedy, in particular the strategies of "initiating a conversation" and "moving on to a different subject." His goal in this paper, seemingly part of a much larger future project on politeness strategies in Latin Comedy and other Latin genres is to "analyze the perception of politeness or its opposite as an education and status indicator" (18). By means of select quotations from Plautus and Terence, Ferri shows that the linguistic negotiation of politeness in Latin Comedy is acutely problematized by the use of broad dictional variants based on contextual, pragmatic, and social factors. The conclusions that Ferri offers in this essay seem to project important gains for scholars studying how poets and other authors use basic sociolinguistic strategies for social presentation or even stratification whether for their own benefit, the benefit of their addressees, or their audiences.

Denis Feeney in "Catullus and the Roman Paradox Epigram" deftly surveys the use of question and response topoi in Roman epigrams from Ennius' couplet on his posthumous fate to Catullus various verbal jousts with Lesbia. Feeney is particularly interested in the epigrammatists' use of the paradox as part of the "answer to a question" (the odi et amo epigram is perhaps the most famous example). Feeney shows first, through comparison to the Anthology, that this epigrammatic format is a distinctively Roman feature rather than one learned from Greek predecessors. Then, by focusing on Catullus' particular fondness for the paradox format in his epigrams, Feeney effectively demonstrates the helpful point that this simple format is used by the epigrammatic poet to manipulate his readers' reaction to the poem through the unexpectedness of the poem's resolution. Feeney thereby exhibits another example of the particular aptitude that certain Latin poets had for constructing their poetics for the maximum effect upon their audience. This analysis will offer students of the epigram a good example of a new way to examine these poems.

In "Venus' Maternity and Divinity in the Aeneid," Edward Gutting explores the "deep set tensions" between Venus' disparate roles as matrona and erotic goddess (41). After examining numerous scenes in which Venus is caught between the mortal and immortal worlds, between the roles of matrona and erotic symbol, Gutting shows that the tension between these roles affects our ability to understand her characterization in the Aeneid, as "each undercuts the other" (55). Gutting's conclusion in this analysis is well made as the seemingly unsolvable tension in Venus' character helps develop the sometimes contentious characters of Aeneas, Ascanius, Anchises and other such important figures in the Roman foundation mythology. In the end, through Gutting's analysis, we see that Vergil has built a careful platform upon which to understand other characters in the story.

Randall T. Ganiban examines the intertextual critique of Ulysses and his contrast with Aeneas in Aeneid 2, arguing that "Vergil devalues [him] not only by showing him to be morally problematic, but also by suppressing the positive Homeric presentation of Odyssean dolus in Odyssey 8-9" (57). Ganiban demonstrates that Vergil's manipulation of the interplay between dolus and glory in the depictions of Ulysses and Sinon, and their respective roles in the fall of Troy, reveals a conscious attempt to devalue Ulysses through moral condemnation. This technique also emphasizes Aeneas' "higher calling" and the embodiment of core Roman values both in Aeneas and the Aeneid. As a consequence of these manipulations, we can see another example of Vergil contesting his epic forefathers and marking out his own space in the epic canon. As he did in his book on Vergil and Statius, Ganiban here presents a valuable picture into the way that Roman poets contest and compete poetically with one another, and perhaps more importantly with their Greek predecessors, as a way to demarcate their own particular space in the literary tradition.

In "A New Reading of Aeneid 6.847-853," Katharina Volk examines the validity of reading the end of Anchises' speech to Aeneas in the underworld as a programmatic and metapoetic recusatio. After reviewing Vergil's habit of inserting "proems in the middle" in his Eclogues and Georgics and the technique's import for those works, Volk suggests that here at the end of Aeneas' vision of Rome's future, Vergil continues questioning both his place in the Greco-Roman literary tradition and Rome's place in contrast to Greek cultural achievements. In this way, Vergil is able to distill Rome's essence and how it should be viewed against the achievements of other peoples. Volk's paper works well with Ganiban's previous one in showing that, even for Vergil, the specter of Greek cultural dominance was weighty and a matter for challenge.

Grant Parker, in "The Gender of Travel: Cynthia and Others," examines how travel in the Greco-Roman world is gendered, particularly with regard to power relationships, by investigating three case studies of female travel in the discourse of Latin love elegy. In viewing the real and/or putative travels of Cynthia (Prop. 1.8A, 1.11, and 1.12), Corinna (Am. 2.11), and Cleopatra (C. 1.37), Parker suggests that the power-inverting world of elegiac discourse offers an alternative view of gender power relations with regard to travel: namely that the three women become exceptions to the rule of male domination in planning and executing travel. Ultimately, this examination offers a helpful and new perspective in viewing the relations between men and women in Latin literature and in finding exceptions and alternatives to male domination of all aspects of life in the ancient world.

Philip Hardie examines how Virgil, Ovid, and Spenser use allegorical personifications of various types of invidia and fama to present their own aspirations for poetical glory. Hardie views Fame and Envy as essentially two sides of the same coin and integral to understanding the textuality of the epics and the control that authors have in constructing them. In the end, Hardie shows that in episodes where these personifications occur we observe a breakdown in the separation between fame and envy. As a consequence, the boundaries between what happens within the text and without as well as the control that the author has over these events are impinged. In this essay, Hardie does an exceptional job charting how a trope such as the interconnectedness of envy and glory appears and evolves over the course of the western literary tradition.

In "Senatus consultum de Lycaone: Concili degli dei e immaginazione politica nelle Metamorfosi di Ovidio," Alessandro Barchiesi notes that there is an oscillation of meaning when it comes to defining "council" in scenes depicting councils of the gods in epic. He then asserts that the terminology and scene-setting used in these passages suggest that we can read them as scenes depicting a session of a "celestial" senate.

Stephen Wheeler, in "Into New Bodies: The Incipit of Ovid's Metamorphoses as Intertext in Imperial Latin Literature," explores a variety of references to the incipit of the Metamorphoses, particularly those in the didactic epic of Manilius and the Aetna. As Wheeler shows, the intertextual interest from subsequent poets is often in the phrase in nova in the incipit to the Metamorphoses, which allows important metapoetic interplay to be made by the alluding poets. In the case of Manilius, Wheeler demonstrates that Ovid's incipit allows the poet to create a polemical attitude towards the mythologically based epic of Ovid and, subsequently, a more serious attitude for the reception of his own didactic epic. What Wheeler's study offers scholars of poetry is a view of how one poet's verse, meant to construe one idea, can be used with relatively little adjustments to connote something very different from and perhaps even challenging to the original. Calling Lucan's habit of apostrophe in his Bellum Civile an "intrusive trope," Paolo Asso builds on recent work (particularly that of F. D. Behr and M. Leigh) on Lucan's rhetorical strategy of using apostrophe to heighten the effectiveness of the poet's moral and ideological program. Asso argues that Lucan's use of apostrophe intrudes upon the narrative and the relationship between the poet and the audience to misdirect the Neronian audience from the narrative towards the ideological concerns at hand in the epic. In the end, Asso suggests that this technique "yields insight into Lucan's rhetorical poetics" (161). This paper should help continue the important work being done on the technical strategies of composition of the epic poets in the Neronian and Flavian eras by offering an analysis of one of the most rhetorically talented Roman epic poets.

In "The Poisoned Chalice: Rumor and Historiography in Tacitus' Account of the Death of Drusus," Andrew Feldherr examines the account of Drusus' death in Annales 4 and how Tacitus narrates the reactions to the death by Sejanus, the Senate, and Tiberius. Feldherr shows how Tacitus' use of rumor as the focal point for a dialectic between an "optimistic" reading of Roman history, using Livy as a model, and a "pessimistic" reading, which Tacitus forms to show the re-perversion of Roman government back into tyranny.

Andrew Zissos, in "Shades of Virgil: Seneca's Troades," begins by examining the "wide-ranging program of Virgilian allusion in the Troades" (199) observing that Seneca uses the Aeneid as a "shadow text" or foil for his readership. In essence, Seneca creates an ironic counterbalance to the Virgilian manner of constructing the "Roman" foundation around the fall of the Trojan people. Zissos further shows that Seneca creates a dialogue with Virgil's Buthrotum episode in his characterization of Andromache. From these interesting analyses, Zissos concludes helpfully for those interested in Virgilian-Senecan intertextuality that Seneca's readers are invited to see Seneca's "ending as Virgil's beginning" (209). In this way, Rome still does come from the Trojan catastrophe, although the story is much richer than that which we get solely from Virgil.

In "Ille referre aliter saepe solebat idem: ripetizione e sperimentalismo narrative nella Tebaide in Stazio," Laura Micozzi examines the use of repetition as a narrative technique in the Thebaid. Micozzi shows that this sort of repetition allows an epic poet who is narrating a story that has been told before, by epicists like Homer and Vergil, to furnish his audience with a variety of versions of the corresponding story and, thereby, drives home to the audience that there is an inherent literary quality to the story. Further, the audience is able to recognize the various different versions appropriately at the same time.

Carole Newlands, in "Statius' Prose Prefaces," analyzes the important, yet especially underrated, prefaces to each book of Statius's Silvae, arguing that these prefaces are replete with careful social diplomacy and literary critical framing. Often misunderstood as the acknowledgement of poetic inferiority by a second-rate poet, Statius' prefaces perform, as Newlands deftly shows, a necessary part in understanding the poetical context and refinement of the Silvae. Newlands's contribution is a necessary study and will help scholars of the Silvae unlock further the subtleties and strengths of Statius' poetry, particularly in the way that the poet creates a reading method for his very different and complex poetry.

In "Statius Silvae 4.9 and the Poetics of Saturnalian Exchange," J. Mira Seo argues that in his Saturnalian poem to Plotius Grypus, Statius creates distinctly opposed models of gift-exchange through careful allusions to Catullus 14 and Martial 4.88. In opposing Catullan "social reciprocity" and Martial's "mercenary" interests, Statius is able to draw attention to the relationship between himself and Grypus, which, based on prosopographical information, was quite disparate. Seo suggests, quite helpfully for scholars studying the self-promotional interests of poets, that Statius confronts his social position through a "complex and self-neutralizing portrait" and thereby "mediates the potential risks of real social difference" (252).

In the collections final essay, "A Neglected Witness to Macrobius' Saturnalia," Bob Kaster reexamines the textual tradition of the Saturnalia, specifically "drawing attention to a manuscript that is very likely [part of the tradition's] oldest surviving witness" (259).

Rolando Ferri, "Politeness in Latin Comedy: Some Preliminary Thoughts"

Denis Feeney, "Catullus and the Roman Paradox Epigram"

Edward Gutting, "Venus' Maternity and Divinity in the Aeneid"

Randall T. Ganiban, "The Dolus and Glory of Ulysses in Aeneid 2"

Katharina Volk, "A New Reading of Aeneid 6.847-853"

Grant Parker, "The Gender of Travel: Cynthia and Others"

Philip Hardie, "The Word Personified: Fame and Envy in Virgil, Ovid, Spenser"

Alessandro Barchiesi, "Senatus consultum de Lycaone: Concili degli dei e immaginazione politica nelle Metamorfosi di Ovidio"

Stephen Wheeler, "Into New Bodies: The Incipit of Ovid's Metamorphoses as Intertext in Imperial Latin Literature"

Paolo Asso, "The Intrusive Trope--Apostrophe in Lucan"

Andrew Feldherr, "The Poisoned Chalice: Rumor and Historiography in Tacitus' Account of the Death of Drusus"

Andrew Zissos, "Shades of Virgil: Seneca's Troades"

Laura Micozzi, "Ille referre aliter saepe solebat idem: ripetizione e sperimentalismo narrative nella Tebaide in Stazio"

Carole Newlands, "Statius' Prose Prefaces"

J. Mira Seo, "Statius Silvae 4.9 and the Poetics of Saturnalian Exchange"

Robert Kaster, "A Neglected Witness to Macrobius' Saturnalia"

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