An exploration of the darker corners of ancient Rome to spotlight the strange sorcery of anonymous literature.From Banksy to Elena Ferrante to the unattributed parchments of ancient Rome, art without clear authorship fascinates and even offends us. Classical scholarship tends to treat this anonymity as a problem or game—a defect to be repaired or mystery to be solved. Author Unknown is the first book to consider anonymity as a site of literary interest rather than a gap that needs filling. We can tether each work to an identity, or we can stand back and ask how the absence of a name affects the meaning and experience of literature.Tom Geue turns to antiquity to show what the suppression or loss of a name can do for literature. Anonymity supported the illusion of Augustus’s sprawling puppet mastery (Res Gestae), controlled and destroyed the victims of a curse (Ovid’s Ibis), and created out of whole cloth a poetic persona and career (Phaedrus’s Fables). To assume these texts are missing something is to dismiss a source of their power and presume that ancient authors were as hungry for fame as today’s.In this original look at Latin literature, Geue asks us to work with anonymity rather than against it and to appreciate the continuing power of anonymity in our own time.
A History Today Best Book of the YearA Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the YearVirgil, Ovid, Cicero, Horace, and other authors of ancient Rome are so firmly established in the Western canon today that the birth of Latin literature seems inevitable. Yet, Denis Feeney boldly argues, the beginnings of Latin literature were anything but inevitable. The cultural flourishing that in time produced the Aeneid, the Metamorphoses, and other Latin classics was one of the strangest events in history.“Feeney is to be congratulated on his willingness to put Roman literary history in a big comparative context…It is a powerful testimony to the importance of Denis Feeney’s work that the old chestnuts of classical literary history—how the Romans got themselves Hellenized, and whether those jack-booted thugs felt anxiously belated or smugly domineering in their appropriation of Greek culture for their own purposes—feel fresh and urgent again.”—Emily Wilson, Times Literary Supplement“[Feeney’s] bold theme and vigorous writing render Beyond Greek of interest to anyone intrigued by the history and literature of the classical world.”—The Economist
The mother tongue of the Roman Empire and the lingua franca of the West for centuries after Rome’s fall, Latin survives today primarily in classrooms and texts. Yet this “dead language” is unique in the influence it has exerted across centuries and continents. Jürgen Leonhardt has written a full history of Latin from antiquity to the present, uncovering how this once parochial dialect developed into a vehicle of global communication that remained vital long after its spoken form was supplanted by modern languages.Latin originated in the Italian region of Latium, around Rome, and became widespread as that city’s imperial might grew. By the first century BCE, Latin was already transitioning from a living vernacular, as writers and grammarians like Cicero and Varro fixed Latin’s status as a “classical” language with a codified rhetoric and rules. As Romance languages spun off from their Latin origins following the empire’s collapse—shedding cases and genders along the way—the ancient language retained its currency as a world language in ways that anticipated English and Spanish, but it ceased to evolve.Leonhardt charts the vicissitudes of Latin in the post-Roman world: its ninth-century revival under Charlemagne and its flourishing among Renaissance writers who, more than their medieval predecessors, were interested in questions of literary style and expression. Ultimately, the rise of historicism in the eighteenth century turned Latin from a practical tongue to an academic subject. Nevertheless, of all the traces left by the Romans, their language remains the most ubiquitous artifact of a once peerless empire.
The papers in this volume are based on a 2018 conference in the Department of the Classics at Harvard University in honor of Richard Tarrant, Pope Professor of the Latin Language and Literature, on the occasion of his retirement.The breadth of authors, genres, periods, and topics addressed in The Lives of Latin Texts is testament to Richard Tarrant’s wide-ranging influence on the fields of Latin literary studies and textual criticism. Contributions on stylistic, dramatic, metapoetic, and philosophical issues in Latin literature (including authors from Virgil, Horace, and Seneca to Ovid, Terence, Statius, Caesar, and Martial) sit alongside contributions on the history of textual transmission and textual editing. Other chapters treat the musical reception of Latin literature. Taken together, the volume reflects on the impact of Richard Tarrant’s scholarship by addressing the expressive scope and the long history of the Latin language.
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