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15-10-'12 | Ancient World Seminar |Yanick Maes|Vergil’s Underworld

Wanneer:ma 15-10-2012 16:15 - 17:30
Waar:Room 130, Oude Boteringestraat 38

Vergil's Underworld as Text World in Donatus’ Interpretationes Virgilianae

Yanick Maes teaches Latin at the University of Ghent and has taught Latin at the University of Groningen last year, temporarily replacing Professor Nauta. His research interests range widely, but often concentrate on the literature and culture of the Neronian age, Lucan's unsettling epic Bellum Civile in particular, on which he has published frequently. In recent years he has also branched out towards Late Antiquity, focusing on reading and writing in the Empire of the fourth century. In this lecture he will present a novel approach to the work of Tiberius Claudius Donatus (not to be confused with Vergil's biographer Aelius Donatus), an avid reader of Vergil's Aeneid, who left us a journal chronicling his interpretations of Vergil. Study of this work offers intriguing insights into the mind of a fourth century Roman reader.'

In  the latter half of the fourth century, Tiberius Claudius Donatus composed a massive reading journal known as the Interpretationes Vergilianae. It offers us a rhetorical study of Vergil’s Aeneid, written by a father (who was probably a dilettante reader) for his son in an attempt to have him share in his enthusiasm for the poem by pointing out to him the ways in which Vergil’s text should be read. This often neglected work illustrates in wonderful ways the intricacies involved in the complex interaction between reading, reformulating and writing within the context of rhetorical schooling in the fourth century.

This talk focuses on his reading of the sixth book of the Aeneid. Donatus' reading practice emerges as completely self-sufficient. Everything one needs to know is already present, in the text, but also in the reader. Donatus' reading is that of a cultured person, whose rhetorical education and civic duties have provided him with the practical tools for reading texts and for translating them into terms that can be instantly understood, here and now. Maes argues that Donatus’ interpretation derived from this self-sufficient reading practice makes him approach the Aeneid as constituting what recent developments in cognitive poetics have come to call a Text World—a fictional world, held together by an internal logic of its own and born from the interaction of writer, reader, text and context in the construction and negotiation of meaning.

Poster design: Marleen Termeer