Why Vergil?: A Collection of Interpretations

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Author: Stephanie Quinn
Product Code: 4185
ISBN: 978-0-86516-418-5
Pages: 467
Availability: In stock.
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We lack automatic and simple answers to the question "Why Vergil?" — or many similar questions for that matter: why literature, why art, especially why old literature — and at that — why literature in an old language? Yet even after 2,000 years, the voice of Vergil still resonates with the universal human cry.

—From the Introduction


Vergil's gift to our times, as to others, is to teach us a way to see a world in turmoil, to hold many visions of it simultaneously, excruciatingly, all in absolute conflict with each other, and all of them true. . . . Vergil created for us something that perhaps had not existed in quite this way before: the imaginative possibility of moral choices located between tragic recognition and idealized hope. . . . Vergil's popularity in this century and this country may mean that more citizens now share Vergil's artful knowledge. The knowledge is a glimmer, a warning: be prepared, like Aeneas, to believe in something, to act for it, in action to compromise your ideal of it and then, and this is the hard part, to survive with grieving memory to act in hope again, with no promise of success and no choice but to go on.

—From the Conclusion

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Reviews

Review by: Merton College, Oxford J.S.C. Eidinow, Classical Review - February 1, 2002
This collection is a passionate defence of the place of Virgil in education: it is aimed principally at an American audience, but the lessons are there also for non-Americans. The editor provides a preface, an introduction, and a strongly argued (and profusely footnoted) conclusion, all of which aim to put the selected material, reprinted from elsewhere, into its apologetical context; there are also prefatory notes to most of the selected pieces. The book has two focuses; the interpretation of Virgil's texts themselves and the ways different critics have approached this task on the one hand, and Virgil's (continuing) importance to Western civilization on the other. These focuses are reflected in a division of the collection into two parts: the first, under the rubric 'The Power of Words and the Meaning of Form', cnsists of five translations of Aeneid 1.1 - 11, and eighteen interpretative essays ranging over the whole poem; the second, entitled 'The Uses of Tradition and the Making of Meaning', is an imaginative complitation, which explores, not only through academic papers, but also through literature, Virgil as the inheritor of a tradition and Virgil as the source and material of a civilized tradition. The first part does not avoid essays already selected by Harrison (Oxford Readings in Virgil's Aeneid (Oxford, 1990) or Commager (Virgil: A Collection of Critical Essays (Englewood Cliffs, 1966), so Knox's classic essay 'The Serpent and the Flame' has an outing here, as does Parry's 'The Two Voices of Virgil's Aeneid', and Feeney's 'History and Revelation in Vergil's Underworld.' Other mainstays which also win a place include Duckworth on "The Architecture of the Aeneid", Chapter V of Gurval's Actium and Augustus (arguing that Virgil created, rather than reacted to, the Augustan understanding f Actium), Benario on Book 10, Horsby on "The Virgilian Simile as Means of Judgment', and one of Putnam's several explorations of ecphrasis ('Daedalus, Virgil, and the End of Art'; see also his recent collection, Virgil's Epic Designs: Ekphrasis in the Aeneid (New Haven, 1998). These, and other thoughtfully selected papers, will enable the unfamiliar reader to cover some good critical ground in a well-ordered way. The second part takes in essays classical (including Otis on Virgil's relation to Homer, Putnam on the influence of Catullus' lyric, the marvellous first chapter from Johnson's Darkness Visible, and Gruen's presidential reminder to the A.P.A. of the cultural diversity of the ancient Mediterranean), essays in the cultural tradition stemming from Virgil (Dante, Shakespeare, and Milton are usefully, if briefly, addressed here), Meyer Reinhold on the reception of Virgil in America before 1882, an exploration of Virgilian modes in Spike Lee film Do the Right Thing, an exxtract from Brocks The Death of Virgil, and poets: Frost, Brodsky, Day Lewis, Allen Tate, Auden, Rosanna Warren, and Walcott. It is a stimulating mixture. The fact that some of the essays have been cut means that undergraduates will not be allowed to use, like Harrison's collection, as a shortcut to the open shelves; but read as a whole, its careful yet imaginative choices, thoughtful editing, and passionate argument will offer pleasure and excitement to most readers.
Review by: Peter Toohey, Phoenix - October 1, 2001
Dr. Quinn's Why Vergil? will prove a very useful book indeed for U.S. schools and universities. And so it should. It is produced with intelligence, care, and remarkable affection. Peter Toohey Phoenix 55.3-4 (Fall-Winter 2001) [we do not have a copy of the whole review that I can find]
Review by: Marc Mastrangelo, Classical Journal - October 1, 2001
By inviting students to get their hands dirty with the text with the assistance of distinguished writers, critics, scholars, and translators, Why Vergil? makes an elegant and passionate argument that Vergil still matters. Marc Mastrangelo Dickinson College The Classical Journal 97.1 (October-November 2001) [we have a copy of entire review in house, but it needs to be scanned in]
Review by: Marianthe Colakis, Clœlia - July 26, 2001
...a valuable resource for university faculty (both classicists and non-classicists), graduate students, undergraduates, and talented secondary students. It deserves a place on every reserve shelf or classroom where Vergil is taught.
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