A detailed table of contents signals range and conceptual frame, which will be familiar to specialists. Their names cluster in notes (conveniently at page bottom) drawn from more than a half-centuryâs scholarly industry, to which Karakasis reacts: âthe notion of genreâ is âa quite debated issueâ and âcontemporary critical speech often exhibits a post modern, deconstructive âgeneric agnosticismâ.â No agnostic, Karakasis premises that âTheocritus and his Roman counterpart, Vergil, composed pastoral poetry and thus founded this generic formation in Greece and Rome respectively,â and that âThe two terms âbucolicâ and âpastoralâ are used interchangeably in the present study, having no particular semantic difference and denoting the same literary genre.â He refers to âthe continuation (although often in altered form) of motifs, techniques and programmatic aspirations that seems to unify a genre from Theocritus up to Nemesianus, in the sense of a literary form that, at least up to a point, creates specific âgeneric expectationsâ for the (model) reader, leading him thus to the construction of meaning.â
Karakasis links â the âpastoral normââ with a generalized âCallimachean â neotericâ and also employs other typifying terms, e.g., âelegiac passion hardly fits into the pastoral scheme of things, as it âthreatensâ the all-important value of bucolic serenity.â He adds, âwe are entitled to think of pastoral as a more âpureâ version of neoteric aestheticism descending from the Callimachean paradigm.â (p. 9) [italics added to mark definite articles dictated by the premise]. Like thinking can associate âpastoral with Dionysus,â assert that âbucolic as a genre is also related to comedyâ; and approve Hunter (1999) on âthe epic origins of pastoralâ (p. 14).
The conceptual frame allows approaching Virgil through the seventh eclogueâs song contest, which represents, writes Karakasis, a ââgeneric distinctionâ between the genus tenue and genus grande â (p. 57), the latter personified in the blustery, defeated competitor Thyrsis, related specifically to âepic poetryâ while discussing âLexical and Syntactic Options.â Of the other competitor, Karakasis writes that âCorydon exhibits over again his neoteric sensibilitiesâ by contrast with Thyrsisâ ânegative associations within neoteric poetics.â
âIn his third eclogue,â begins the next chapter, âVergil depicts one more poetic contest.â An impressionistic paraphrase follows, with desultory mention of Theocritean idylls but no clear account of their structure or this eclogueâs. Karakasis focuses on contradictory views of the close, where Virgil makes a neighbor declare both singers worthy, granting neither the prize. Karakasis infers that âthe topics they choose to develop . . . have close connections with other literary genres, namely comedy, elegy, and the mimeâ (p. 88). He omits Breedâs insight ( Pastoral Inscriptions 2006) that a history of goat-song by one singer (Damoetas) evokes an origin shared by bucolic and tragic song. He also ignores the fact that a pointed echo of Aratus opens the formal exchange of songs, âall are full of Jove,â though his method might have been expected to highlight this upward deviation. Still occluding Aratusâ epos, he closes by describing both speakers as ââdeviating fromâ earlier pastoral tradition towards comic and elegiac modelsâ (p. 123).
On eclogue eight, Karakasis hails its singersâ âskill in the art of song, i.e., the pastoral value par excellenceâ; yet he remains uneasy that âthe present eclogue lacks the typical formalities of a song-contestâ (p. 125). He stills generic disquiet by citing one word, certantes, to categorize the poem as âa singing match between the two shepherdsâ (he lets generic âshepherdsâ overshadow Virgilâs specific differentiation between a suicidal, tragic goatherd and a name suggesting âcowherdâ, Alphesiboeus). Karakasis cites stylistic details for âneoteric aspirations of the contestantsâ Orphic songsâ (p. 126). Determined to âdefend the organic entity of the eclogue,â he also argues that the recusatio of the âDedication Partâ harmonizes with the genus tenue of the songs. Against this generic level, he cites the eclogueâs âdisordered pastoral worldâ caused by âurban associationsâ (p. 151); but he writes that both songs âcan be read as professing pastoral values.â He thus ignores multiplying links to tragedy: the poet defining his own ambition as Sophoclean and weaving into both songs references to Medea. also imagining a magician, Moeris, picking simples from her land and stealing crops.
In the fifth eclogue, Karakasis construes the pushy young Mopsus as offering âan account of central generic topoi of the pastoral genre in the Theocritean and post-Theocritean tradition . . . in their association with the neoteric â Callimachean poetological programâ while the elderly Menalcas is âstill of the Callimachean poetological trend, but adapted especially to Roman termsâ (p. 183). He follows Breed to note the novelty that Virgil imagined Mopsusâs song carved on beech (âoften a metonymy of Vergilian pastoral itself,â an insight not applied to the beech-wood cups, ecl. 3); yet he hardly notices the novelty that Virgil imagined young Mopsus pushing old Menalcas beyond familiar pastoral shade to a âbowerâ ( antrum). The âbowerâ Karakasis does trace to Homer, but without pressing his usual practice, to read the shift from shade to âbowerâ as a poetological upward push: cf. young Menalcas and Damoetas interpreted as pushy (ecl. 3), likewise Thyrsis (ecl. 7). He misses the poetological chance to trace Mopsus to older epic stories. Still less does he link Mopsusâ epical âbowerâ to the locus Meliboeus lost (ecl. 1: yet he will link Meliboeus to epical ambition when discussing ecl. 9). Since Virgil makes Mopsus impose a new scene and new theme ( nuper) on aged Menalcas ( tu maior (a palpable hint of genus grande), the story does not show the elder initiating the younger nor fit Wrightâs initiatory typology. Karakasis sees this eclogue making pastoral interact âwith political society and its benefactors; … which entails a mixture of traditional pastoral motifs, encomiastic notes and georgic touchesâ (p. 183), which Virgil to be sure had mixed already in what Karakasis elsewhere calls âthe first programmatic eclogueâ (ecl. 1).
From a generic perspective, the ninth eclogue shows âthe negative influence of âpastoral dislocationâ and the disruption of bucolic songâ (p. 185). Karakasis relates displaced old Moeris to exiled Meliboeus (ecl. 1), writing that both exiles show a penchant for archaic diction, implying nostalgia for lost pasts. He finds Moeris âthinking along epic linesâ in the image of (legionary) eagles harassing doves, in a dislocation from pastoral toward genus grande (p. 192) and reiterates âMoerisâ âgeneric leaningâ towards the elevated genresâ (p. 196), concluding that Moeris âappears to incarnate the process of âgeneric adoptionâ of pastoral poetry in the Roman literary tradition; politics now impose their presenceâ (p. 206). He then gives further evidence for stylistic resemblance between Moeris and Meliboeus; and he describes a contrast between âMeliboeus preferring, as shown above, pp. 208-9, the elevated equivalent, the linguistic option shared by higher literary genres, and Tityrus, who maintains, at least up to a certain point, his pastoral identity and his rustic colloquialism of a lower literary registerâ (p. 211). He insists on the âsimilarity of statusâ that joins Moeris with Meliboeus and young Lycidas with elderly Tityrus. In fine he sees âhope for the prolongation of pastoral songâ despite âthe âgeneric sideâeffects of the âpastoral dislocationâ running through the whole.â
One sign supporting his synthesis eludes Karakasis, that Moeris is identified by Lycidas as a bard ( me quoque [sicut te] dicunt vatem pastores, sed non ego credulus illis. Indeed vatic song â magical spells with georgic powers and simples from Medeaâs land â had been assigned to Moeris (ecl. 8), although Karakasis denies any mention of Moeris apart from ecl. 8. That georgic motifs occur too in Moerisâ song of Caesarâs fructifying star, Karakasis does note (p. 202).
Even these brief excerpts may enable specialists to infer some qualities in the scholarship: its productive use of tension between generic concepts, its gathering of detail with regard to Latin style (Moeris like Meliboeus, Thyrsis), and yet its reductive and repetitive use of âcatchwordsâ such as âneotericâ and âCallimacheanâ and âtheâ pastoral bucolic. Genre continuing through time has long and well been studied as tradition, marked by tensions characterized by concepts like oppositio in imitando (Giangrande) or âreferenceâ (Thomas), or âappropriation,â as in Derek Walcottâs Omeros, legible as both like and unlike Homer, hence fruitful for âthe construction of meaning.â Fruitful attention to contrast is curtailed when Karakasis superimposes âthe pastoralâ onto âthe bucolicâ: in effect he reduces âthe bucolicâ to a levy of stylemes and themes beclouding its centrality for Greek economic, religious, political and cognitive practice (cf., e.g., Gutzwiller, âThe Herdsman in Greek Thought,â in Fantuzzi and Papanghelis, Brillâs Companion to Greek and Latin Pastoral, 2006; or McInerney, The Cattle of the Sun. Cows and Culture in the World of the Ancient Greeks, 2010).
Non-specialists will seek here in vain for methodical and systemic guidance to the contexts from which generic signposts are picked: contexts meaning the structures of whole poems (idylls, eclogues) and their roles in Hellenistic and Roman poetry books (cf., e.g., Hutchinson, Talking Books, 2008; Van Sickle, The Design of Virgilâs Bucolics, 2004). Structure would help specialists too account for the welter of specific remarks about stylistics, motifs, and literary topics, which absent some sense of âorganic unityâ become repetitive ultimately lacking point.
In the generic congeries, however, hints of order may be discerned: Tityrus characterized as more âpastoralâ vs Meliboeus pushing high though exiled (ecl. 1), both young Menalcas and Damoetas pushing upwards in sync with tragic Pollio (ecl. 3), pushing toward georgic and heroic range in vatic contexts (ecll. 4 and 5); vatic Mopsus pushing greater Menalcas upwards, Roman encomium sealed and signed (ecl. 5); Tityrus blamed for pushy poetics and drawn back from the highest push (ecl. 6); erstwhile pushy Meliboeus brought back and down to bond with restrained Corydon against paratragic Thyrsis (ecl. 7); tragic notes pushing above bucolic voices (ecl. 8); once pushy vatic Moeris and Menalcas pushed aside (ecl. 9); finally Virgil imagining Menalcas in Arcadia distracted from gathering mast by Gallus dying of tragico-bucolic love (ecl. 10).
Karakasisâ conceptual tools, although on Greek bucolic and Virgil they may be by turns procrustean and sisyphean, strike this reader as better calibrated to Virgilâs epigonoi, e.g., signaling in Calpurnius âthe intention of âtranscendingâ pastoral âgeneric boundariesâ primarily towards elegiac and georgic preferences.â Karakasis sums up ââgeneric noveltyâ . . . mirrored by a certain degree of linguistic innovation, especially in the speech of Meliboeus and Corydon, who adopt several linguistic peculiarities of post-classical Latinâ (p. 279). However, a phrase like âwho adopt,â imagining the fictive characters as conscious stylists, exemplifies an epistemological quirk that pervades and undermines the authority of the critical discourse.
At the âlevel of poetological meta-languageâ in the first Einsiedeln eclogue, Karakasis finds âunrealised expectation of a time-honoured pastoral performanceâ giving way to âa âcontaminationâ on the thematic and the linguistic level with other literary genres, namely epicâ (p. 296). On the second eclogue of Nemesianus he displays both his generic method and the epistemological quirk just remarked: âthe two competing pastoral singers employ motifs having a traceable literary historyâ or again, âThe young menâs efforts to overcome their elegiac passion through bucolic song are doomed.â Still, Karakasis concludes that âNemesianus proves himself capable of exploiting the whole of the pastoral tradition before him, often combining motifs from more than one source in such a way as to suggest his âinnovative generic orientationââ (p. 320). Finally, in Nemesianusâ fourth eclogue, Karakasis individuates a complex poetology, drawing threads from non-bucolic works of âGreek pastoral poetsâ or poems of âa âgenerically dubiousâ characterâ if not examples âwhere a clear âelegiac discourseâ runs throughâ a Latin bucolic text.