"I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

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Hylander
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"I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by Hylander » Mon Nov 18, 2019 7:10 pm

mwh wrote:
I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem. But this is no place to discuss that.
Hellenistic, yes, especially in its engagement with the poetry of the past, but not Callimachean in its length epic length and subject matter. More Apollonius than Callimachus.

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by mwh » Mon Nov 18, 2019 10:03 pm

More Apollonius than Callimachus. That's so, but I'm glad you agree that it’s hellenistic, which is hardly in accord with traditional views of the Aeneid. I've had to fight eminent Latinists about that. It’s hellenistic in its allusivity, its selectivity, its erudition, its subtlety, its tautness, its innovative and challenging use of language (easily underestimated), even its narrative technique. It’s the Homeric epics he’s taking on (both of them), so as to displace Ennius as the Roman Homer, so it’s necessarily longer than the Hecale, say, yet he manages to do it all in under ten thousand lines, and in 12 books instead of 48. As to its subject matter, it’s a foundation myth, a ktisis; only the fact that the city in question is Rome distinguishes it. Theocritus directly informs his Eclogues, and Nicander his Georgics (or so I believe)—both quintessentially Hellenistic poets. The Aeneid is something else again (nescioquid maius), and I wouldn’t call it Callimachean exactly, but if we make allowance for its Homeric ambitions, as it demands we do, I think we could certainly say it embraces and embodies the new poetics exemplified above all by Callimachus.

But I don’t want to get caught up in a discussion about classification, certainly not before we’ve all read the poems for ourselves, if possible without filtering them through the tralatitious stuff we’re told about them and all too readily repeat.

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by Hylander » Mon Nov 18, 2019 11:49 pm

Theocritus directly informs his Eclogues, and Nicander his Georgics (or so I believe)—both quintessentially Hellenistic poets.


I mentioned I'm reading Aratus, and I think he is also present in the Georgics -- the transmutation of unpromising and dry technical material into poetry.
its innovative and challenging use of language (easily underestimated),
I think this is a key feature of Vergil, not just in the Aeneid, but especially in the Aeneid. Striking and unforgettable phrases that stretch or even distort the language,, such as sunt lacrimae rerum. And all the wonderful hypallages -- I read an essay by, I think, G.B. Conte that alerted me to this figure in Vergil. He suggested that many of them have been smoothed out in the course of the transmission. Also, it seems to me (with no hard evidence) that in the Aeneid there are fewer of the neoteric special effects that call attention to themselves (such as golden lines and other noun-adjective arrangements), and instead he fashions unique expressions that are memorable in themselves.

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Barry Hofstetter
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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by Barry Hofstetter » Tue Nov 19, 2019 4:26 am

It was finding just such language in Vergil that made me fall in love with the Aeneid, and realize the value of reading in the original language.
N.E. Barry Hofstetter
The Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy
καὶ σὺ τὸ σὸν ποιήσεις κἀγὼ τὸ ἐμόν. ἆρον τὸ σὸν καὶ ὕπαγε.

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by seneca2008 » Sat Nov 23, 2019 2:30 pm

mwh wrote:More Apollonius than Callimachus. That's so, but I'm glad you agree that it’s hellenistic, which is hardly in accord with traditional views of the Aeneid.
A thread which is particularly interesting to me thank you.

I think often for perhaps what starts out as practical reasons we create too much of a distinction/barrier between Latin and Greek. Even exemplified, understandably enough, in TextKit's separate boards for Latin and Greek. Apart from Latin authors' clear desire to inscribe themselves into an existing "literary canon" (Catullus Horace and Quintilian to pick just three) we should not lose sight of the Hellenisation ( perhaps Hellenization :D ) of the Romans through several hundred years before Vergil.

Although I hesitate to mention the term "Reception Theory" I think the readiness with which people now can engage with the idea of Vergil as a reader of Homer or later Greek poetry is a testament to the framework which that theory has provided.

I wonder what Callimachus as a reader of Vergil would have made of the Aeneid? I think for many of the reasons given by MWH he would have found much to admire. This is no homeric imitation but a real and learned engagement with its epic predecessor. In Eclogue 6 Vergil himself engages with Callimachus' Aetia (- the prologue in which C. answers his critics and defends his poetic practice. ) (See Cambridge Companion to Virgil ed. Martindale Green Politics: the eclogues where there are suggestions for further reading)

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by mwh » Sun Nov 24, 2019 3:38 am

Thanks seneca. Yes Latin authors “inscribed themselves” into the Greek literary canon—and they did so from the word go: Ennius translated Greek epic, Plautus translated Greek New Comedy, even if “translated” is a very inadequate term for what they did.

But what I meant by Hellenistic is narrower than this. It conventionally refers to hellenistic literature as distinct from archaic and classical (naturally such periodizations can be deconstructed). More precisely, in the context of verse, it refers to the “new poetics” embraced by poets of the hellenistic era ushered in by Alexander and the expansion of the Greek world—Callimachus and Apollonius among others, many of whom made their way to early Ptolemaic Alexandria. These are the poets in whose footsteps first Catuilus and then the so-called novi poetae followed at Rome. Vergil is to be associated with them, and not only in the Eclogues.

Vergil read Callimachus, and the relationship between their works (and between both of them and Homer, the fons et oligo) was explored and “engaged with” well before Reception Theory reared its head. More intriguing, perhaps, is the idea, or more accurately the fantasy, of Callimachus as a reader of Vergil. The idea becomes meaningful only via the concept of Intertextuality. I’m fine with that, but I do think it’s worth bearing in mind that the Greeks and Romans thought in terms of imitation and emulation, which travel only one way. (Likewise theft, plagiarism, in the mouths of detractors, and Vergil had many). I think Pasquali’s historically unimpeachable notion of l’arte allusiva is still very much worthwhile.

One of David Lodge’s early novels features a postgrad student writing a dissertation on T.S. Eliot’s influence on Shakespeare. At the time (circa 1970?) this seemed something of an absurdist parody of contemporary departments of English. Nowadays we don’t blink at it, and for good reason. Eliot’s poems (Prufrock!) and Eliot’s criticism have had great influence on modern reception of Shakespeare. In the same way we might imagine that Vergil’s poetry has influenced the reception of Callimachus. But I really don’t think that’s been the case.

Michael

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by RandyGibbons » Sun Nov 24, 2019 4:08 pm

Hylander wrote:
Striking and unforgettable phrases that stretch or even distort the language
I always remember my grad school Latin professor (Carl Trahman) comparing Vergil's stretching and distorting the language to what Beethoven did with notes in the late string quartets.

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by seneca2008 » Sat Nov 30, 2019 1:16 pm

mwh wrote:One of David Lodge’s early novels features a postgrad student writing a dissertation on T.S. Eliot’s influence on Shakespeare. At the time (circa 1970?) this seemed something of an absurdist parody of contemporary departments of English. Nowadays we don’t blink at it, and for good reason. Eliot’s poems (Prufrock!) and Eliot’s criticism have had great influence on modern reception of Shakespeare. In the same way we might imagine that Vergil’s poetry has influenced the reception of Callimachus. But I really don’t think that’s been the case.
Michael I really enjoyed your recommendation from my last sojourn on these boards of Loge's (haha I am listening to Siegfried so I will let that Freudian slip stand - even if L. only appears in the music) Campus Trilogy. I hadn't laughed so much for years.

I didn't mean to underplay the value of older readings of the relationship between Callimachus and Vergil. For those of us interested in methodology and literary studies reception theory puts these readings on a surer theoretical footing and can open up other approaches. I am a little surprised that no one has done work on the reception of Callimachus by way of Virgil. My "fantasy" of Callimachus reading Virgil is just a polemical way of saying that we as readers of Callimachus are also readers of Vergil and these authors are implicated in each other in the same way Dante and Vergil are.

In another thread you described yourself self-deprecatingly thus "Sorry for bringing a breath of stale air." This is of course nonsense. You are like Athena " ἡ δ' ἀνέμου ὡς πνοιὴ ἐπέσσυτο δέμνια κούρης". Appearing to dispense wisdom to those of us that want to learn something.

I must find some time for more Hellenistic poetry.

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Re: "I’d say the Aeneid is very much a hellenistic poem."

Post by mwh » Sun Dec 01, 2019 3:08 am

A breath of stale air is of course “imitation with variation." As all hellenistic poetry is.

(Further recs for you: Fred Crews’ Pooh Perplex and Pomo Pooh, both oldies but permanent goodies, the latter with a chapters on Derridadaism and on "Heidegger Reading Pooh Reading Hegel Reading Husserl”; and anything by Don Fowler, who brought Theory to Oxford.)

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