Virgil Recomposed: The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity

Virgil Recomposed: The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity

Virgil Recomposed: The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity

Virgil Recomposed: The Mythological and Secular Centos in Antiquity

Synopsis

The Virgilian centos anticipate the avant-garde and smash the image of a staid, sober, and centered classical world. This book examines the twelve mythological and secular Virgilian centos that survive from antiquity. The centos, in which authors take non-consecutive lines or segments of lines from the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid and reconnect them to produce new poems, have received limited attention. No other book-length study exists of all the centos, which date from ca. 200 to ca. 530.

The centos are literary games, and they have a playful shock value that feels very modern. Yet the texts also demand to be taken seriously for what they disclose about late antique literary culture, Virgil's reception, and several important topics in Latin literature and literary studies generally. As radically intertextual works, the centos are particularly valuable sites for pursuing inquiry into allusion. Scrutinizing the peculiarities of the texts' allusive engagements with Virgil requires clarification of the roles of the author and the reader in allusion, the criteria for determining what constitutes an allusion, and the different functions allusion can have. By investigating the centos from these different perspectives and asking what they reveal about a wide range of weighty subjects, this book comes into dialogue with major topics and studies in Latin literature.

Excerpt

The Virgilian centos are some of the more striking texts to survive from Latin antiquity. a cento—a word that in literature has the meaning “patchwork text” —is comprised of unconnected verse units taken from the Eclogues, Georgics, and Aeneid and pieced together to create narratives that differ from Virgil’s own. These units may consist of a segment of a hexameter line; an entire line; a line and some section of the following line; and rarely two or three entire lines. Sixteen Virgilian centos remain from antiquity, ranging in date from ca. 200 to ca. 534. Twelve are on mythological or secular subjects: Hosidius Geta’s Medea; Ausonius’s Cento Nuptialis; Luxurius’s Epithalamium Fridi; Mavortius’s Indicium Paridis; and eight anonymous works, the De Panificio, De Alea, Narcissus, Hippodamia, Hercules et Antaeus, Progne et Philomela, Europa, and Alcesta. the remaining four contain Christian material: the Cento Probae of Faltonia Betitia Proba; Pomponius’s Versus ad Gratiam Domini; the anonymous De Verbi Incarnatione; and the De Ecclesia, perhaps written by Mavortius.

The mythological and secular centos are very different texts from the Christian variety. the settings in which and for which the former works were composed, the ways their authors rewrote Virgil, and many of the interpretive issues the texts raise all distinguish them from the Christian pieces. in light of these disparities, my book isolates the mythological and secular centos. a study of these works will contribute to the growing field of scholarship on nonChristian Latin poetry in late antiquity (i.e., texts without Christian content and usually with classical prototypes and themes). the mythological and secular centos especially help us explore the enthusiasm for light and playful verse composition that abided in that era. in addition, an examination of the centos advances the current scholarship on Virgil’s reception. of particular value is the attention that the book gives to the late antique world. Regarding Virgil’s reception in that period, there has been a great amount of work done on how Christian writers, and particularly the Church Fathers, responded to him. While this subject is an important one, there remains much to be said about how audiences not viewing Virgil through a Christian lens—for example, poets working with pagan and secular material, grammarians and other late antique critics, and students—treated him. the centos help to illuminate these matters . . .

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