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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Writing poems on trees: Genre and metapoetics in Vergil's “Eclogues” and “Georgics”
by Henkel, John H., Ph.D., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2009, 302; 3366471
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation seeks to provide firmer grounding for the study of metapoetics in Roman poetry by investigating Vergil’s use of metapoetic narrative, symbolism, and metaphor in the Eclogues and Georgics. I argue that Vergil’s patterning of characters in the Eclogues after existing narratives, his discussion of farming in the Georgics, and the related references to trees and shade in the Eclogues, can be read as reflecting metaphorically on the theory and practice of poetry in Rome in the late first century BCE. By comparing Vergil’s discussions of trees and farming with passages of explicit literary criticism in Horace, Cicero, and others, I show that Vergil structures the Eclogues and Georgics in a way that allows references to agriculture and the natural world to be read as metaphors not only for life, as some Georgics scholars have shown, but also for poetry.

My first chapter demonstrates my method by discussing a specific, pointed allusion to Aratus and his Hellenistic reception in Vergil’s passage on the farmer’s nighttime activities (Geo. 1.291–296). Here, as throughout the dissertation, I argue that certain passages about trees and/or farming can also be seen as literal reflections of the terms of literary-critical metaphors, such as the “wakefulness” (agrypnie) for which Callimachus praises Aratus’s Phaenomena (Callimachus Epigram 27). My second, third, and fourth chapters discuss a coherent pattern of literary symbolism in Vergil’s references to trees, forests, shade, and grafting in the Eclogues (Ch. 2–3) and the Georgics (Ch. 4). In Chapters 2–3 I also argue that Vergil patterns the narratives of Eclogues 2, 8, and 10 after erotic narratives from Callimachus, Theocritus, and Gallus in order to represent the interaction between Gallan love elegy and Theocritean pastoral in the Eclogues through the love affairs of characters in these poems. In my conclusion I outline further patterns of metapoetic symbolism in Vergil and show that other Augustan poets both allude to Vergil’s metapoetic symbols and, using the same technique, devise metapoetic symbols of their own.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: O'Hara, James J.
Commitee: Harrison, Stephen J., James, Sharon L., Race, William H., Rives, James B.
School: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Department: Classics
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 70/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Classical studies
Keywords: Augustan poetry, Eclogues, Genre, Georgics, Metapoetics, Virgil
Publication Number: 3366471
ISBN: 978-1-109-27755-5
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