The poetics of social change in Late Antiquity (250-750 AD)

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This project investigates how classical Latin poetry was read and responded to in late antiquity (vs. 250 – 750 AD), a period of immense social, cultural and political change. During this period, new Christian literary genres emerged with radically different frameworks of understanding the world; the city of Rome was decentralized as the cultural and political epicenter of the empire; and Western Europe has undergone a profound process of transformation into new political structures. At the same time, classical Rome remains central to the cultural imagination of Late Antiquity writers, Christian and non-Christian alike.

Classical poetry, especially that of Virgil Aeneid, was a mainstay of the Roman educational system until late antiquity and authors such as Ovid, Seneca, Lucan, Statius, Martial and Juvenal were widely read and highly influential. These texts offered models of rhetoric, narratology, and style and simultaneously presented themes, worldviews, character studies, and ethical dilemmas adaptable to the cultural, social, political, and religious cultures of the late-antique world.

Recent scholarship has begun to uncover how writers of this period manipulated classical Latin poetry to interpret their rapidly changing world. Yet many fundamental questions remain unanswered in arriving at a holistic understanding of late antique poetics of change. A productive research model has been to explore the notion of classic among Late Antiquity authors from different geographical, political, and cultural contexts; another has been to trace the reception of a specific classical author through a sequence of texts from Late Antiquity. Either of these approaches could inform the present project: a proposal focusing on the Late Antiquity fortunes of a major poet after Ovid, or another that examines the use of classical poetry in a less discussed Late Antiquity author, may contribute to our understanding of Late Antiquity’s reception of his Classical past.Add text

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