The Poet at Work: Concepts of Authorship in the Ancient Reception of Virgil
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Classics
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Kearey, T. E. Z. (2019). The Poet at Work: Concepts of Authorship in the Ancient Reception of Virgil (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.37912
This thesis explores how Virgil's readers imagined the authorial techniques and biographical persona of Virgil, the most canonical – yet extraordinarily elusive – Latin poet. While ancient biography is often dismissed as transparently fictional, this thesis makes a case for taking biographical reports of Virgil’s authorial techniques seriously – if not as historical fact, then as sites where later readers creatively explored conceptions of authorship, negotiated literary practices, and constructed an author worthy of reading. These shifting portrayals of 'the poet at work' interact with interpretations of his works in complex and sophisticated ways. By re- evaluating them as fragmented traces of interpretation and creative engagement, we can not only reassess the reception of Virgil, but radically alter our understanding of ancient literary criticism too. After an introduction outlining the theoretical and methodological premises of this study, the thesis falls into two halves. The first two chapters explore biographical accounts of Virgil’s authorship which purport to be factual, focusing especially on scholarly texts such as commentaries, biographies, histories and miscellanies. Chapter 1 tackles anecdotes of Virgil’s methods of composition and revision, tracing the uses later authors made of them and examining how they interact with Virgil’s texts; I argue that they reflect a keenly observant reading of Virgil’s own metapoetic modes of authorial self-fashioning. The second chapter shifts from the written to the oral, investigating reports of the performance and recitation of Virgil’s works, particularly by the poet himself. The third, fourth and fifth chapters, by contrast, investigate explicitly fictional representations of Virgil: those in which he is openly represented as a character from his own works, by means of biographical allegory. This section focuses principally on poetic texts (Propertius, Calpurnius Siculus), and explores the pendulum-swing of attribution, as these poets attribute the allegorising move now to Virgil, now to their own creativity.
Virgil, Reception Studies, Authorship studies, Latin Literature, Ancient scholarship, Life-writing, Biography, Ancient biography, Propertius, Calpurnius Siculus, Donatus, Servius, Macrobius, Aulus Gellius, Jerome, Revision, Composition, Recitation
This doctoral project was supported by three years of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership [grant number AH/L503897/1]. I also received tenth-term funding from the Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge.
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This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.37912
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