Reading Virgil and His Texts

Studies in Intertextuality
Richard F. Thomas
Dynamic textual interplay: inherent and inherited


There has long been vital interest in the ways that texts affect each other—through translation, imitation, parody, and other forms of emulation and subversion. Throughout the last two millennia, the Virgilian text has created its own intertextual heritage, persisting in the works of Eliot, Frost, Lowell, and Heaney. Richard F. Thomas's new volume demonstrates that such control and manipulation of the inherited tradition is to be found with great intensity in the very author who, in turn, created his own complex tradition.

The articles and notes included in this volume have been selected for their diachronic aspect in addition to the synchronic status they had in their original context. Dealing with the intricate ways in which Virgil, and in the introductory chapter his predecessor Catullus, manipulated and appropriated their inherited Greek and Roman literary tradition, this book presents a coherent profile, through these detailed studies, of the mechanics of one of the most dynamic periods in the literary history of any culture.

Richard Thomas—one of the most important voices in Latin literary studies today—shows little anxiety about objections to authorial intentionality. Throughout there is a working assumption that intertextual connections can be established and, further, that functions and purposes, even intended ones, may be inferred from those connections.

This book will be of interest to scholars and students of Greek and Latin literature but will also be of great value to students of medieval, Renaissance, and early modern vernacular literatures, most of whose poets see themselves as closely connected to Virgil.

Richard F. Thomas is Professor of Greek and Latin, Harvard University.

Praise / Awards

  • "The book is of fundamental importance not only for those interested in Virgilian intertextuality, but for all those who have an interest in Virgil in general."
    —David Meban, University of Toronto, Bryn Mawr Classical Review, August 29, 2000
  • "What Thomas offers in sum is a creative, sensitive, and sensible account of the overall pattern of relationships between the texts he investigates; and this results in a flow of new insights into innumerable passages of Virgil and other central Latin (and Greek) poetry. The volume, as an ensemble, is a brilliant achievement. It is imaginative yet rigorous, learned yet approachable, and immensely instructive. Scholars engaged with Helenistic Greek and Roman poetry will ignore it at their peril; and it should be required reading for all graduate students in Classics."
    —Francis Cairns, Classical Journal , Volume 97, No. 1
  • "There can be little doubt that of all the work done by those sheltered under the capacious umbrella of the extended 'Harvard School,' the new understanding of the role of Alexandrianism t hat began to gather steam under Otis and Clausen in the 1960s up through the intricate textures described by Farrell, has truly revolutionized our view of Virgil's poetry. In that impressive record of work, the present volume will survive as a core text."
    —Ward Briggs, University of South Carolina, Phoenix, Spring-Summer 2002
  • ". . . whether or not one is sympathetic to Thomas's approach to literature, this is an important collection of papers and one that should be read by all scholars of Roman poetry. Thomas may plough a narrow furrow, but he does so skilfully [sic] and deeply, and so prepares the ground for a rich harvest."
    —Richard Whitaker, University of Cape Town, Scholia Reviews, Ns. 11 (2002) 34

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 360pp.
  • 3 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2000
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10897-8

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  • $94.95 U.S.