Western Literature to Dante

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2019-20: Mondays, 1:00 p.m.- 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time
2019

September

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October

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November

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December

2   9   16  

2020

January

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February

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March

2   9   16   23   30  

April

13   20   27  

May

4   11   18   25  

Augustan Rome 44 B.C. - A.D. 14

Week 18: P. Vergilius Maro (ca. 70 - 19 B.C.

Aeneas carrying Anchises
Aeneas carrying his aged father Anchises out of Troy. Photograph © Copyright, Bruce A. McMenomy, 2010.

For this week, please read:

I certainly hope you have enjoyed the Aeneid; it is one of the great works of the Western tradition. It is not, however, immediately accessible to many, and it is likely that you will have to revisit it several more times in the future before its richness and texture become as clear as they can be. With luck, you can have a go at Vergil in Latin.

Remember Vergil, too, as a model for all the literature that follows him: his influence in the Roman world was like no other. His shadow hangs over every later Roman and Mediaeval poet, and there are those who still find him as a point of reference for literature today. The twentieth-century poet T. S. Eliot argued that Vergil was the central poet of the Western tradition. Likewise, the art on this page shows that the influence of Vergil’story stretches from the contemporary to at least the nineteenth century.

We will take another look at some of last week’s questions this week, and add some new ones:

Nisus attempts to recover the body of Euryalus
Jean-Baptiste Roman, 1827. Nisus attempts to recover the dead Euryalus, detail.
Paris, Musée du Louvre. Photograph © Copyright 2010, Bruce A. McMenomy

Consider for our discussion this week:

  1. What does this poem say about Vergil’s own political agenda?
  2. Is there anything in this half of the book that could suggest a different vision of the Roman world from what is apparently being presented?
  3. How does the structure of the Aeneid reflect and answer the structure of the Homeric poems? Does this seem to be deliberate? If so, what is Vergil’s point?