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In Contexts of War, Andreola Rossi takes a fresh look at the battle narrative of the Aeneid and devotes specific attention to the ways in which the narrator constantly manipulates the epic imagery of war by assimilating the narrative conventions of other literary genres, namely historiography and, indirectly, tragedy. Moving beyond the usual pairing of Homer and Virgil, Iliad and Aeneid, Rossi refutes the notion that Homer is the only code model for the latter, and demonstrates that the Virgilian battle narrative presents a complex generic structure.
Grounding her work on modern literary theories according to which the specific expressive structures of a literary genre represent definitive cultural and ideological values, Rossi shows how the presence of multiple generic perspectives constantly redefines the text's system of signification. She is particularly interested in the ways in which these multiple generic subtexts allow the narrator to exploit the irreconcilable tension between epic and tragic dialectic.
This in-depth study reveals how Virgilian war narrative allows for diachronic visions of reality, and hence for multiple systems of signification, to co-exist simultaneously in the text. The text thereby becomes a polygeneric entity, which detaches itself from the Homeric epic and the Homeric worldview to forcefully assert its own relative modernity.
Rossi's work sheds new light on one of the most important classical texts. It will interest not only scholars of Latin poetry, but also those interested in comparative literature and literary theory.
Andreola Rossi is Assistant Professor of Classics at Amherst College.
Copyright © 2004, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted May 2004.
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