Aesthetic, Sociological, and Exploitative Attitudes to Landscape in Greco-Roman Literature, Art, and Culture
This article introduces and discusses ancient and contemporary approaches to landscape and proposes model readings for their evaluation. Model readings suggest strategies drawn from environmental and ecocritical studies alongside art historical, and more traditional literary studies approaches. This article emphasizes in particular the benefits of evaluating architectural and agricultural interventions in nature alongside one another. Perceptions of landscape in the Greco-Roman world were strongly associated with cultivation and human invention. In order better to understand how and why aesthetic interest, sentiment, mood, and movement can also be significant, this article explores what makes for “improvement” and value in landscape. It also investigates how contemporary theory offers new ways of evaluating ancient depictions of landscape and responses to the natural environment.
Daniel L. Selden
This chapter discusses the fraught relationship between Second Sophistic discourse and koinē fiction of the second and third centuries ce. Taking its point of departure from a comparison (synkrisis) of Dio of Prusa’s first oration On Kingship and the α-recension of the Greek Alexander Romance, the chapter goes on to argue that Second Sophistic discourse and koinē fiction are not just two different bodies of contemporaneous writings that happened to appear side by side. Rather, they remain engaged in an intertextual agon where literary production in koinē—as opposed to Attic—Greek constitutes a dialectical negation of the overtly imperialist political agendas and monologic cultural objectives that inform Second Sophistic composition. Further consideration of the Life of Sekoûndos and the Story of Aseneth shows how koinē fiction of this period not only aggressively contests the goals and priorities of the Second Sophistic, but pointedly turns its norms and ideals inside out.
Certain canonical texts can become programmatically associated with certain issues in literary criticism. Movements of critical thinking between formalism and historicism, along with the ceaseless interrogation of the two polar terms themselves, may fairly be said to define the range of possibility within which all literary reading occurs; a way of thinking hardly foreign to John Keats' ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ itself, with its richly self-reflexive meditations on history, aesthetics, and the memorialisation of human experience. This essay is a rough guide to formalism and historicism as categories for use by readers of Roman texts, with the goal of testing the relationship between these terms in the particular disciplinary context of Classics.
The chapter seeks to give a historical overview of elite shi, popular shi, fu, and Chuci forms up until 1000 ce, emphasizing the role of traditional theoretical perspectives in shaping or problematizing modern views. In the case of shi, these perspectives include the Mao school’s interpretation of the Shijing; the retroactive creation of a shi tradition by pre-Tang court anthologists and critics in an attempt to privilege elite participation; the explosion of shi composition among the literate classes from the eighth century on due to its significant role in social exchange and in civil service examinations, and the concomitant decline of court aesthetics; the gradual triumph of a self-expressive and autobiographical model for shi composition; and the elite tradition’s general disregard for forms of verse production that did not fit its ideals. In discussing fu and Chuci, it is important to note its changing social roles as well as continuing existence.
Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
Hesiod’s Theogony provides one of the most widely authoritative accounts of the origin of the cosmos, but his account has always been challenged by rivals claiming to be older, wiser, and better, and the name of Orpheus has always been privileged in the evidence for ancient rivals to Hesiod. The Orphic accounts play their variations on the Hesiodic themes, riffing in different ways on the idea of the ultimate origin of the cosmos; the processes of reproduction by which subsequent entities were generated; the conflicts between these divinities that created the changes from the original state to the current one; the way in which humans entered the story; and the final resolution of the conflicts and changes that created the current, normal order of Zeus. The shocking innovations they introduce in the images of the theogonic narrative serve to bolster the authority of their often less shockingly innovative cosmological ideas.
In ancient Rome, the epic is much occupied with beginnings and endings, foundation and destruction. The history of Roman epic begins with the translation into Latin of Homer's Odyssey by Livius Andronicus in the later third century
The term ‘epic’, when applied to ancient Greek literature, refers to a set of texts that may be loosely defined as narrative poetry about the deeds of gods and heroes. To a very large extent, this is a reflection of Homer's authority as the most famous epic poet. This article argues that recent comparisons between early Greek epic and modern oral traditions, as well as the discovery and investigation of ancient Hittite and Near Eastern texts, place Greek epic in a much wider literary and historical context.
Roman first-person poetry, like its Greek predecessors, is much more likely than modern western poetry to exhibit a robust and well-defined ‘context of utterance’. Lowell Edmunds maintains that a speech act cannot be both an object of representation in the poem and the poem itself, while W. R. argues that the represented speech act is a conduit through which a quasi-social speech act between author and reader takes place. This debate involves historical questions as well, since the context of utterance is the most obvious feature of Rome's inheritance from the Greek literary tradition. This article describes the three major genres of first-person poetry in light of the way they deploy the context of utterance: elegy, lyric, and satire. It shows that the characteristic effects of each genre, including the distinctive way it positions its speaker in relation to the poet, are generated by the genre's deployment of the three primary features which together make up the context of utterance: speaker, addressee, and setting.
Hesiod’s famous misogyny is part of a larger “poetics of the powerless” that pervades his epics. The poetic persona of his epics establishes a hierarchy of gender as a defense against his own situation of powerlessness, as presented in the poem. Hesiod subtly challenges those with power, whether in the human or divine realms, and condescends to those below him in the hierarchy, whether female or male. The poet’s portrayal of men and women is therefore the expression of a desire to reduce the power difference between himself and those around him in both the mortal and immortal spheres. As a result, gender in Hesiod is not binary but has aspects coded as positive or negative along a spectrum based on how the individual figure fits into the cosmic power hierarchy.
Scholars have expressed increasing appreciation for the uniqueness of late Greek poetry which had long been dismissed as a mere continuation of the great classical and Hellenistic poetry. This article presents an overview of Greek poetic production in Late Antiquity, focusing on the issues of relationships between poetry and prose, rhetorical structures, social contexts, and performances.