One of the masterpieces of Latin and, indeed, world literature, Virgil's Aeneid was written during the Augustan "renaissance" of architecture, art, and literature that redefined the Roman world in the early years of the empire. This period was marked by a transition from the use of rhetoric as a means of public persuasion to the use of images to display imperial power. Taking a fresh approach to Virgil's epic poem, Riggs Alden Smith argues that the Aeneid fundamentally participates in the Augustan shift from rhetoric to imagery because it gives primacy to vision over speech as the principal means of gathering and conveying information as it recounts the heroic adventures of Aeneas, the legendary founder of Rome.
Working from the theories of French phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Smith characterizes Aeneas as a voyant-visible, a person who both sees and is seen and who approaches the world through the faculty of vision. Engaging in close readings of key episodes throughout the poem, Smith shows how Aeneas repeatedly acts on what he sees rather than what he hears. Smith views Aeneas' final act of slaying Turnus, a character associated with the power of oratory, as the victory of vision over rhetoric, a triumph that reflects the ascendancy of visual symbols within Augustan society. Smith's new interpretation of the predominance of vision in the Aeneid makes it plain that Virgil's epic contributes to a new visual culture and a new mythology of Imperial Rome.
Riggs Alden Smith is Associate Professor of Classics and Associate Dean of the Honors College at Baylor University.
In sum, this book makes an important contribution to the analysis of the Aeneid.... It deserves the close attention and lively interest of all scholars of the Aeneid.
~Bryn Mawr Classical Review
Preface and Acknowledgments
Text and Art Acknowledgments
Chapter 1. Prophaenomena ad Vergilium
Ante ora patrum
The Scope of the Argument
Chapter 2. Ruse and Revelation: Visions of the Divine and the Telos of Narrative
A God in the Midst
Chapter 3. Vision Past and Future
Hector and the Penates
Hindsight to Foresight: Andromache and Aeneas
Vision and Temporal Modality in Aeneas' Katabasis
Site/Sight of Rome
Chapter 4. Hic amor: Love, Vision, and Destiny
Aliud genus officii: Vision and the Second Favor
Viewpoints of Departure: Deception, Vision, and the Separation of Dido and Aeneas
Chapter 5. Vision's Victory and the Telos of Narrative
Failure of Rhetoric (Part 1): Effete oratores
Drances and Turnus: Opposing Visions
Hercules and Cacus: Light, Darkness, and Diction
Failure of Rhetoric (Part 2): The Futility of Battlefield Entreaty in Books 10-12
Failure of Rhetoric (Part 3): Sight Makes Right and the Aeneid's Finale
Chapter 6. Conclusion
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