Written into the landscape : Latin epic and the landmarks of literary reception
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Landscape in Roman literature is manifest with symbolic potential: in particular, Vergil and Ovid respond to ideologically loaded representations of abundance in nature that signal the dawn of the Augustan golden age. Vergil's Eclogues foreground a locus amoenus landscape which articulates both the hopes of the new age as well as the political upheaval that accompanied the new political regime; Ovid uses the same topography in order to suggest the arbitrary and capricious use of power within a deceptively idyllic landscape. Moreover, for Latin poets, depictions of landscape are themselves sites for poetic reflection as evidenced by the discussion of landscape ecphrases in Horace's Ars Poetica. My thesis focuses upon the depiction and refiguration of the locus amoenus landscape in the post-Augustan epics of the first century AD: Lucan's Bellum Civile, Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica, Statius' Thebaid and Silius Italicus' Punica. Landscape in these poems retains the moral, political and metapoetic force evident in the Augustan archetypes. However, I suggest that Lucan's Neronian Bellum Civile fundamentally refigures the landscapes of Latin epic poetry, inscribing the locus amoenus with the nefas of civil war in such a manner that it redefines the perception of landscape in the succeeding Flavian poets. Lucan perverts the landscape, making the locus horridus, a landscape of horror, fear and disgust, the predominant landscape of Latin epic; consequently, the poems of Valerius, Statius and Silius engage with Lucan's refiguration of landscape as a means of expressing the horror of civil war. In the first part of my thesis I examine archetypal landscapes, including those of the Augustan poets and Lucan's Bellum Civile. Taking an approach which engages with literary reception theory and the concept of the â horizon of expectationâ as a framework within which literary topographies can be understood as articulating a response to the thematics of civil war, in the second part of my thesis I demonstrate the manner in which landscapes represent a coherent and paradigmatic response to Lucan's imposition of his civil war narrative within the literary landscape of Roman literature.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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