Classical Philology

Virgil and the Augustan Reception
Thomas, Richard F. 2001. Virgil and the Augustan Reception. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

This book examines the ideological reception of Virgil at specific moments in the past two millennia. It focuses on the emperor Augustus in the poetry of Virgil, detects in the poets and grammarians of antiquity pro- and anti-Augustan readings, studies Dryden's 1697 Royalist translation, and also naive American translation. It scrutinizes nineteenth-century philology's rewriting or excision of troubling readings, and covers readings by both supporters and opponents of fascism and National Socialism. Finally it examines how successive ages have made the Aeneid conform to their upbeat expectations of this poet.

Virgil: Aeneid Book XII
Tarrant, Richard, ed. 2012. Virgil: Aeneid Book XII. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

Book XII brings Virgil's Aeneid to a close, as the long-delayed single combat between Aeneas and Turnus ends with Turnus' death – a finale that many readers find more unsettling than triumphant. In this, the first detailed single-volume commentary on the book in any language, Professor Tarrant explores Virgil's complex portrayal of the opposing champions, his use and transformation of earlier poetry (Homer's in particular) and his shaping of the narrative in its final phases. In addition to the linguistic and thematic commentary, the volume contains a substantial introduction that discusses the larger literary and historical issues raised by the poem's conclusion; other sections include accounts of Virgil's metre, later treatments of the book's events in art and music, and the transmission of the text. The edition is designed for upper-level undergraduates and graduate students and will also be of interest to scholars of Latin literature.

Martial: Liber Spectaculorum
Coleman, Kathleen M. 2006. Martial: Liber Spectaculorum. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

This book is the first full-scale edition of the so-called Liber spectaculorum by Martial. A comprehensive introduction addresses the role of epigram in commemorating monuments and occasions, the connection between spectacle and imperial panegyric in Martial's oeuvre, characteristics of the collection, possible circumstances of composition and 'publication', transmission of the text, and related issues. Each epigram is followed by an apparatus criticus, an English translation, and a detailed commentary on linguistic, literary, and historical matters, adducing extensive evidence from epigraphy and art as well as literary sources. The book is accompanied by four concordances, five tables, two maps, 30 plates, and an appendix.

Homer's Text and Language
Nagy, Gregory. 2004. Homer's Text and Language. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

As Homer remains an indispensable figure in the canons of world literature, interpreting the Homeric text is a challenging and high stakes enterprise. There are untold numbers of variations, imitations, alternate translations, and adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey, making it difficult to establish what, exactly, the epics were. Gregory Nagy's essays have one central aim: to show how the text and language of Homer derive from an oral poetic system.

In Homeric studies, there has been an ongoing debate centering on different ways to establish the text of Homer and the different ways to appreciate the poetry created in the language of Homer. Gregory Nagy, a lifelong Homer scholar, takes a stand in the midst of this debate. He presents an overview of millennia of scholarly engagement with Homer's poetry, shows the different editorial principles that have been applied to the texts, and evaluates their impact.

Plato's Rhapsody and Homer's Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens
Nagy, Gregory. 2002. Plato's Rhapsody and Homer's Music: The Poetics of the Panathenaic Festival in Classical Athens. Washington, DC and Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

The festival of the Panathenaia, held in Athens every summer to celebrate the birthday of the city’s goddess, Athena, was the setting for performances of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey by professional reciters or “rhapsodes.” The works of Plato are our main surviving source of information about these performances. Through his references, a crucial phase in the history of the Homeric tradition can be reconstructed. Through Plato’s eyes, the “staging” of Homer in classical Athens can once again become a virtual reality.

This book examines the overall testimony of Plato as an expert about the cultural legacy of these Homeric performances. Plato’s fine ear for language—in this case the technical language of high-class artisans like rhapsodes—picks up on a variety of authentic expressions that echo the talk of rhapsodes as they once practiced their art.

Highlighted among the works of Plato are the Ion, the Timaeus, and the Critias. Some experts who study the Timaeus have suggested that Plato must have intended this masterpiece, described by his characters as a humnos, to be a tribute to Athena. The metaphor of weaving, implicit in humnos and explicit in the peplos or robe that was offered to the goddess at the Panathenaia, applies also to Homeric poetry: it too was pictured as a humnos, destined for eternal re-weaving on the festive occasion of Athena’s eternally self-renewing birthday.

The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad
Elmer, David F. 2013. The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making and the Iliad. Baltimore, MD: John Hopkins University Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

The Poetics of Consent breaks new ground in Homeric studies by interpreting the Iliad’s depictions of political action in terms of the poetic forces that shaped the Iliad itself. Arguing that consensus is a central theme of the epic, David Elmer analyzes in detail scenes in which the poem’s three political communities—Achaeans, Trojans, and Olympian gods—engage in the process of collective decision making.

These scenes reflect an awareness of the negotiation involved in reconciling rival versions of the Iliad over centuries. They also point beyond the Iliad’s world of gods and heroes to the here-and-now of the poem’s performance and reception, in which the consensus over the shape and meaning of the Iliadic tradition is continuously evolving.

Elmer synthesizes ideas and methods from literary and political theory, classical philology, anthropology, and folklore studies to construct an alternative to conventional understandings of the Iliad’s politics. The Poetics of Consent reveals the ways in which consensus and collective decision making determined the authoritative account of the Trojan War that we know as the Iliad.

Homeric Responses
Nagy, Gregory. 2003. Homeric Responses. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Publisher's Version Abstract

The Homeric Iliad and Odyssey are among the world's foremost epics. Yet, millennia after their composition, basic questions remain about them. Who was Homer—a real or an ideal poet? When were the poems composed—at a single point in time, or over centuries of composition and performance? And how were the poems committed to writing? These uncertainties have been known as The Homeric Question, and many scholars, including Gregory Nagy, have sought to solve it.

In Homeric Responses, Nagy presents a series of essays that further elaborate his theories regarding the oral composition and evolution of the Homeric epics. Building on his previous work in Homeric Questions and Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond and responding to some of his critics, he examines such issues as the importance of performance and the interaction between audience and poet in shaping the poetry; the role of the rhapsode (the performer of the poems) in the composition and transmission of the poetry; the "irreversible mistakes" and cross-references in the Iliad and Odyssey as evidences of artistic creativity; and the Iliadic description of the shield of Achilles as a pointer to the world outside the poem, the polis of the audience.