BMCR 2013.03.44

Vox poetae: manifestations auctoriales dans l’épopée gréco-latine

, Vox poetae: manifestations auctoriales dans l'épopée gréco-latine. Actes du colloque organisé les 13 et 14 novembre 2008 par l'Université Lyon 3. Collection du Centre d'études et de recherches sur l'Occident romain - CEROR, 39. Paris: De Boccard, 2011. Pp. 432. ISBN 9782904974380 €39.00 (pb).

[The Table of Contents is given below.]

This busy collection of nineteen papers from a 2008 colloquium co-organized by the editor includes several contributions that are unexpanded, presumably as delivered, but she has made it all add up to a volume that works.1 She herself supplies a stand-out paper (replacing a drop-out on Venantius) as well as a brisk general introduction and conclusion (pp.7-13, 355-57); but she has also shuffled and teed up the re-grouped offerings into three themed ‘Parts’, on ‘Author-izing identities = ?’ (pp.15-18 on §§1-6), ‘Poetic Subjectivity. . .outcrops’ (pp.123-27 on §§7-13), and ‘Poetic Ideology: Poet meets Citizen’ (pp.263-66 on §§14-19); her link- divisiones provide succinct commentary obiter. Generous End Papers (pp. 385-424) include exhaustive Indexes Locorum, Scriptorum Recentiorum, Notionum.2

The essays are (quelle surprise) all-but-one in French (§15 in English) and all-but-two from France. Among the poets, Latin voices get the Lyon’s share: Catullus 64, Aeneid (x 4, plus the scholia, and plus his Troy), Metamorphoses (x 2), Lucan (x 1, plus his Troy), Thebaid, Claudian, Dracontius, Corippus Iohannis. Keep ears peeled for Greek: only Homer (x 3, plus the scholia) and. . .– Theocritus have shown up (and he is up first). Apart from the last mentioned, then, it’s all canonical hexameter poetry all the way (bar Corippus’ elegiac proem), and no ramifying (beyond neoteric-countergeneric, oratorical epideictic, Biblical epyllion) into the likes of satiric, epistolary, or other frills.

The target is set open and sitting at the outset, with Aristotle’s idealization of Homer as minimalist narrator wheeling on his personnel to talk soon as maybe ( Poetics 1460a5-11) for Aunt Sally. Almost all the essays show how the genre was forever and as a constitutive feature thoroughly invested in massaging of récit with discours. They point out from author to author the chain of tradition-forming, -varying, and (conceivably) -developing riffs on programmatic salience for narration; and they explore techniques of constant self-commentary through rhetorical colouring and ‘subjective’ loading interwoven with presentational prompting and cueing. The formula vox poetae is actually rare in the Homer and Aeneid scholia (p.10 n.10), but essay §6 uncovers their recognition of a narratorial ego that is epiphenomenal to, a discursive function of, the story to be told, and contained within its arc (cf. §11), as distinct from authorial, biographizing, extratextual identity. However, right from the outing in §1 of the bid to import into the citified Alexandrian world of Ptolemaic patronage for Hellenic worthies such as Dr. Nicias and poet Aratus a purveyor of Syracusan-Sicilian Doric ‘baahing’ music from an unlikely new Pindar in hexameters, the ‘biographical space’ created by any writing-project recuperates psychological-social-cultural-political-ethical impulsion for however well-insulated textualist scenography. (The vocals of the corpus Theocriteum flock in, crowd round, step up, to run the gamut of ‘porosity’ between outback, metropolis, and showbiz at court, p.32.) This turn back out to narrative as cover for narration smuggling self-promotion into the author stakes will take over the book’s out-turn (§§14-19).

But before we get there, storyteller’s obtrusions into the stories they tell are mapped for each work in a repetitive overlay/sustained imbrication of the main palpation techniques that have so far won modern critical recognition. All the while, these chapters stage a running fight to get more of a handle on ‘incroyable’ poetic ‘plasticité’ (p.12) than circularity in the form of comment on the familar lines of ‘focalizes through specularity, marks suspense, points up pathos’ (‘. . .dans une sorte de maniérisme où le poète dénonce lui-même l’illusion qu’il a créée’, ibid.; cf. esp. §7, p.131). And how (to):

Start up intros, inset internal proems, and catch outros(the paratext): §2 ( Iliad 2 catalogue), §3 (Catull 64), §15 (opening suite of the Aeneid), §16 ( Thebaid‘s closing sequences).
Gazette obtrusions, in formal tabulations: Metamorphoses in §9, the Johannis in §18.
Re-count narrator ‘outcroppings’, tracking apostrophe, invocation/ imprecation: §§2, 9, 16, 18 and associated rhetorical figures, esp. linking into helical chains — §§2, 8 (Patroclus in Iliad 16), §7 (Menelaus < = > Patroclus, squared with Sarpedon and of course Hector), §12 (Telemachus), §16 (Oedipod brothers and Furies, readers and finished poem).
Let ‘free indirect style’ sink in: §§6, 9.
Search through loading and atmospherizing keywords, esp. buzz epithets organizing themes, linking into series: §11 ( nêpios), §12 ( infelix), §13.
Diagram narratorial deployment of person and number in shaping and negotiating reader-relations, attuning the writing ‘I’ to each variety of ‘we’: esp. §4, a fine map of types of ‘us’.
Pick out archiving, memorializing, epitaphic, voicings: §§6, 10.
Mark tradition, intertextually launching innovations of epic: §19.
Accept hybridization, commandeering other generic accentuations: §15.
Listen, be told by ana-, pro-, cata-, meta-lipsis: §§2-4, 9, 12.

Besides several stand-out initiatives in their own right (see * below), the underlying story of the volume is rightly pinpointed as the attempt to uncover the decisive power of narration in creating and re-creating the generic, metageneric, and megageneric status of epic — captured in the other organizer’s slogan, ‘non plus une voix de poète’ mais une ‘voix poétesse’ (p.17): as Bruno Bureau’s own exposition points the aperçu, it’s the self-enacting dimension of performative enunciation that is in ‘our’ sights, ‘ Ego n’est pas la voix du / d’un poète, il est la “voix-poétesse”, comme si le poème lui-même parlait’ (p.80).

And, true enough, the first tranche of papers is organized so as to tell us there are (can be) no boundaries to the self-limning calculations of story-telling (à la ‘beyond here lies nothin’’), before the second works through instance to nuance and/or deviance towards the moral that story (like song) constantly self-reinvents, and that too is a must. When this reader reached the final suite for that journey back from within, and ran into author-politics for the run-in, he felt that, despite ditching the fake-carapace of (omnimpotent) scientism, ‘we’ are still nowhere near matching Barthes’ battery of narrative codes for nailing the powerplay (in S/Z). That ‘internal narrator’ phenomena and dynamics can be relatively downplayed (until, that is, the morphomorphic finale, §19) may be down to postmodern demystification of the (character of) character in narrative, but when the penetration of epic lines by didaxis opens the trapdoor to Part III (§§14-15), in rush those old demons ethos and ideology, emperors to cater for and custom to work, and we’re back with the moulding of fictive worlds from-and-back-to axiological-deontological profiling through hermeneutic | prohairetic | semantic | symbolic | cultural frames, before we head out to resume the lives we write ourselves. Enfin our editor-narrator has mixed her epicist voices into multi-track versions of ‘narration comme le débat sur elle-même et sur ses modalités’, and en français this suasion makes for ear-stroking eloquence: ‘une voix qui dit, se dit, se montre disant et se dit en montrant’ (p.266). So much banging at an open door, you wonder? Maybe, but attention to sententiousness (§14) — to what epic storytelling does with story — rightly brings home the subject’s definitive seriousness: that imperious voice (§15).

Episodic-reader specialists intent on their own patch will scan the ToC below, but coruscations f.t.a.o. everyone include:

§2 Contrast between ethically engaged Iliadic busyness hyping up quasi-live performativity and specular Odyssean ‘novelistic’ erasure of interactive ‘orality’.
§3 Self-staging labyrinth, threading, weaving, diegetic images and Argonautic, Thessalian, Roman student-class audiences convoked for Catullus to teach. . .the maze of myth/ poetry/ fiction/ everything.
§4 Do not try to iron out ambiguity and contradiction from the voice of De Bello Civili as it flips between ego-nos appropriations, ‘because that’s precisely what they’re there to introduce, on the model of the [self-denunciatory] satirist’ (p.96).
§8 Montage clinches an included ‘Wrath’ for Patroclus (proleptic for Achilles’ dénouement).
§10 Virgil invents apostrophe within catalogues at Aeneid 7.744-5 and 10.185, for (cannon-fodder) nobodies who won’t reappear, so their vocatives amount to commemorative salutation through a secondary ‘orality’.
*§11 57 times the Iliad plays the nêpios card, strewing across the tale the narrrator’s nominees for fall-guy, who either are in no position to grasp what’s being done with them in and by the(ir) story, or else are characters who risk a boomerang by themselves dishing out the label. The 25 cases in Odyssey re-shape and parody the Iliad, with 18 issuing from Odysseus.
*§12 48 times the Aeneid stars persons or peoples infelix, half from narrator, half from characters. Prodding us, and dooming them (while pitying, denouncing, cursing) to (narrative/ metapoetic) elimination from the mode and mood of martial heroics monopolized by epic commemoration.
§13 explores more ancient criticism, this time engaged at closest quarters with epic, in Propertius’ review (in 2.34) of Virgil’s career as authorial self-profiling. And shows how Lucan’s pulverization of Troy in Caesar’s fantasmic visit both desecrates and effaces Virgil’s pained memorialization of civil war through Troy and Italy.
*§16 brilliantly disentangles the transc end ence of the brothers’ by their cities’ feud in Thebaid 11-12. (1) As the duel to double death ends nothing, ending only in Creon’s takeover, no less tyrannous despite trading on his son’s devotio, the narration is studded with authorial energy, including (evidently self-confuting) prayer to the Furies to deny the theme a future except for kings to read (11.576-79). Whereas (2) after Argos’ depulsion, as Thebes’ defeat by Athens brings reconciliation, and even redemption for all the abominable casualties, this is managed by fading the vox poetae until narrator calls in the widows’ lamentations to do the trick, so writer can make port and seal his poem as (self-guaranteeing) achieved work with assured future station in reading.
§17 reminds us how hard Claudian, caught in the blatancy of panegyrical-historical imposture, had to scrap to cook up any semblance of community to vocalize, while his story falls to bits around his strident orating. Delegation of the severely shrunken battle-narrative to captives freed after the victory regaling their families conjures up narratorial jubilation, the joy of storytelling.
§18 Christianizing Corippus gets in your face to take on Virgilian epic for Justinian.
*§19 clinches epic narratoriality with the ‘paroxysm’ of the Metamorphoses (p.266). Un-writing Virgil’s Mercury metapoeticizes flighty hopping narration as episodic disconnect; jumping the tracks with Phaethon’s nauagium (phaeton crash at the first turning-post into book 2) flouts Callimachus’ programmatic semaphore on correct driving and puerility: but (by aping the bracketing of tragic melodramatics between the storms of Aeneid 1 and 5) Naso’s carmen perpetuum recovers its ordained drive along time’s arrow once past the shipwrecking of angel Ceyx at the end of book 11, bumping onto the straight and narrow path of solid epic narrative from Homer through Virgil through Ennius, to reach the goal of Ovid’s promised tempora.4

Table of Contents

I: 1. (pp.19-32) Christophe Cusset et Fanny Lévin, ‘La voix du poète dans le corpus Theocriteum
2. (pp.33-56) Sylvie Perceau, ‘Voix auctoriale et interaction de l’ Iliade à l’ Odyssée : de l’engagement éthique à la figure d’autorité’
3. (pp.57-71) Jean-Pierre De Giorgio et Emilia Ndiaye, ‘ Vox poetae noui dans l’ epyllion 64 de Catulle’
4. (pp.73-96) Bruno Bureau, ‘Quand il n’y a plus de honte à parler de soi. Ego et ses avatars dans le poème de Lucain’
5. (pp.97-101) Étienne Wolff, ‘La uox poetae dans les oeuvres épiques de Dracontius’
6. (pp.103-22) Séverine Clément-Tarantino, ‘ Vox poetae, persona poetae : le point de vue des commentateurs anciens d’Homère et de Virgile’

II: 7. (pp.129-44) Sandrine Dubel, ‘Changements de voix: sur l’apostrophe au personnage dans l’ Iliade
8. (pp.145-56) Jocelyne Peigney, ‘La voix de l’aède au chant 16 de l’ Iliade et la colère de Patrocle’
9. (pp.157-81) Marie Ledentu, ‘La voix du poète et ses mises en scène dans les Métamorphoses d’Ovide’
10. (pp.183-93) Anne Maugier-Sinha, ‘” Non ego te. . .transierim” ( Aen. 10, 185-186): apostrophe au personnage et énonciation épitaphique, la nécessité d’une voix comme support de mémoire’
11. (pp.195-213) Michel Briand, ‘A propos de népios dans l’ Iliade et l’ Odyssée : ambiguïtés et variations auctoriales, entre récit et performativité’
12. (pp.215-46) Emmanuelle Raymond, ‘Entre poétique du pathos et mémoire du poète: le cas d’ infelix dans l’ Énéide de Virgile’
13. (pp.247-61) Aline Estèves, ‘Virgile et Lucain interprètes de la guerre de Troie: les épithètes subjectives, fragments de discours auctorial’

III: 14. (pp.267-74) Martin Dinter, ‘Sentences chez Virgile’
15. (pp.275-83) Damien Nelis, ‘Didactic voices in Vergil’s Aeneid
16. (pp.285-98) Sylvie Franchet d’Espèrey, ‘Finir l’histoire. La voix du poète aux chants 11 et 12 de la Thébaïde de Stace’
17. (pp.299-313) Marie-France Guipponi-Gineste, ‘Modalités et signification de la uox poetae dans l’épopée historique de Claudien, De Bello Getico
18. (pp.315-33) Benjamin Goldlust, ‘Quand le récit épique devient discours politique et manifeste poétique: les interventions auctoriales dans la Johannide de Corippe’
19. (pp.335-54) Florence Klein, ‘L’ hen aeisma diènékès ou la poétique de l’épopée en question: Étude de quelques manifestations de la uox poetae dans les Métamorphoses d’Ovide’


1. I should perhaps declare an interest in that I supervised Martin Dinter’s Lucan thesis.

2. These notiones stake out the collection’s aspirations to theory; the recentiores just waste paper (and cause hilarity when e.g. the entry Fraenkel E: 367 directs us to. . .the entry in the Bibliography).

3. Bibliography does, I should say, range worldwide: who says my ears missing all reference to Simon Goldhill’s The Poet’s Voice beyond one bare reference in a Nelis footnote to its bare existence counts as parochial? (Touché.)

4. The pun between ‘times’ and ‘temples (of the head, so “mind”)’ has yet to impinge on études latines.