Dean of the College presents
Candidate for the Position in Classics
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Lucan and the Limits of Didactic Poetry: The Case of the Libyan Snakes
This talk will explore the representation of scientific knowledge and didactic poetry in book 9 of Lucan's Civil War. During an excruciating trek across the Libyan desert, Cato's Roman army arrives at a spring that teams with poisonous snakes. Here, Lucan adopts the role of a didactic poet and teaches the reader about the exotic African serpents, drawing heavily on a tradition of scientific poems on poisonous animals. The troops, however, fail to perceive the nature of the situation, and the snakes soon decimate Cato's army. Natural historical and medical knowledge fail to assist the snakes' victims as well, and the reader is left with the impression that both science and scientific poetry have no meaningful or practical role to play in Lucan's universe. In a world unhinged by civil war and on the verge of total breakdown, the elegant refinement and bookish learning of didactic poetry look like exercises of purely academic interest, entirely divorced from the world they purport to explain.
40 minute talk, followed by Q&A.
For more information, call 845-758-7282, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location: Olin 205
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