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The Cambridge Companion to Virgil (Cambridge Companions to Literature) [Paperback]

Charles Martindale

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Book Description

2 Oct 1997 Cambridge Companions to Literature
Virgil became a school author in his own lifetime and the centre of the Western canon for the next 1800 years, exerting a major influence on European literature, art, and politics. This Companion is designed as an indispensable guide for anyone seeking a fuller understanding of an author critical to so many disciplines. It consists of essays by seventeen scholars from Britain, the USA, Ireland and Italy which offer a range of different perspectives both traditional and innovative on Virgil's works, and a renewed sense of why Virgil matters today. The Companion is divided into four main sections, focussing on reception, genre, context, and form. This ground-breaking book not only provides a wealth of material for an informed reading but also offers fresh and sophisticated insights which point to the shape of Virgilian scholarship and criticism to come.

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The Cambridge Companion to Virgil (Cambridge Companions to Literature) + An Introduction to Virgil's Aeneid + Virgil: The Aeneid (Landmarks of World Literature (New))
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Review

' … highly successful for both a specialist and non-specialist audience. Classical scholars will find much to think about … and their students will find [this] invaluable.' The Times Literary Supplement

'Awareness of the importance of Virgil's reception is growing among Latinist, thanks in no small measure to the work of the editor of The Cambridge Companion to Virgil, Charles Martindale, and the fruitful results of this awareness are regularly on display in the collection … Classical scholars will find much to think about … and their students will find it invaluable. [The] book contains chapters that will launch a thousand essays. One may only hope that non-classicists will also be encouraged to explore the worlds of Virgil' Times Literary Supplement

' … not only an important new resource for those approaching Virgil for the first time, but it also affords a useful overview of the current state of Virgilian research … I can recommend this book to anyone interested in Virgil.' Classics Ireland

Book Description

Virgil became a school author in his own lifetime and the centre of the Western canon for the next 1800 years, exerting a major influence on European literature, art, and politics. This Companion is designed as an indispensable guide for anyone seeking a fuller understanding of an author critical to so many disciplines. It is divided into four main sections, focussing on reception, genre, context, and form, and not only provides a wealth of material for an informed reading but also offers fresh and sophisticated insights which point to the shape of Virgilian scholarship and criticism to come.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
'Virgil' does not just denote the 13,000 or so lines of verse which are now usually attributed to the poet who is believed to have lived between 70 and 19 BC: the word also connotes all the interpretations which have accreted around those lines over the past two thousands years. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 1.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Virgil homogenized 15 Jun 2012
By David Auerbach - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Cambridge Companions are notoriously inconsistent, since they contain new articles that are frequently non-introductory, so to hit the sweet spot between erudition and accessibility, you have to have scholars and subjects that are wide-ranging enough for the amateur while also sufficient to look good on an academic resume. Some, like the Wittgenstein and Hegel volumes, do remarkably well. This one, however, is a disaster. While some good articles by great scholars appear (Braund, Fowler, Hardie, Zetzel), even the good articles tend to be specialized, and the worse articles are laden with (now-dated) trends of 1997 and will be useless to scholars in 20 years and useless to amateurs today.

Literally half the articles barely touch on Virgil's actual writing, instead focusing on his influence, trends in Virgil criticism, or Roman politics. Fiona Cox's essay on Hermann Broch's Death of Virgil is especially poor, capturing neither the flavor of Virgil or Broch in its eight glib pages and ending with nothing more than a list of other loosely related works of art with almost no commentary.

Martindale's pompous introduction points to him as the culprit: "How Virgil's works are interpreted varies in accordance with the way they are contextualised. And contexts are not self-evident or unproblematic but are themselves constructions composed by juxtaposing texts which in turn have to be interpreted. The third part explores a number of contexts within which meanings - often conflicting meanings - might be determined or generated. And it concludes with a substantial essay on intertextuality. Moreover intertexts - like contexts - do not simply resolve problems of interpretation, they complicate them still more, multiplying possibilities."

The problem isn't that he's wrong as much as that we've heard this a hundred times before. Martindale isn't a particularly good theorist either: a few quotes from Benjamin, Foucault, Steiner, Harold Bloom, and other big names reveal him as a theory dilettante. So the result is Virgil ground through the same textuality mill that has been tail-chasing for decades now.

Among anthologies, A Companion to the Study of Virgil (Brill's Scholars' List) and Why Vergil? A Collection of Interpretations are better on the actual poetry (though nearly anything would be), and A Companion to Vergil's Aeneid and its Tradition (Blackwell Companions to the Ancient World) is better on context and reception, so this book is fairly obsolete. Cambridge should replace it with a better volume. For a nice single-author overview, there's still Brooks Otis' Virgil: A Study in Civilized Poetry (Oklahoma Series in Classical Culture). I'm sure Martindale would call Brooks Otis a hopelessly outdated old fogey, but it's nice to read a scholar who, unlike Martindale, clearly loves literature and language.
56 of 80 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hard for general reader: too technical & theoretical. 30 Jun 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
General readers may well be confused & misled by the introduction to this book, which indulges in what is known as "reception theory": according to this theory, Virgil's reception by readers through the ages has been marked by partiality & bias, which the present editor sets out to expose. He forgets that he, too, is a reader with an outlook rooted in a specific (our own) time. His own limitations as a reader become apparent when he produces a confused & reductive essay on Virgil's first major work, The Book of Bucolics (also known as eclogues) -- a source for the tradition of pastoral poetry in the West. Other scholars will no doubt find other essays to praise or blame in such a wide range, but no one, I think, will admire the theoretical posturing & self-involvement of the editorial frame. Those wishing a fuller discussion of issues raised by this book may reach me at the appended address.
35 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Read Virgil in Isolation from this Book 24 April 2005
By Johannes Platonicus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This so-called Companion to Virgil offers little to students of the poet, and certainly nothing to general or curious readers. Very plainly, this volume is completely animated with theory--theories which are neither just to Virgil nor compatible to the Virgilian tradition. This "companion" is ultra-modern in approach, so it is anachronistic in effect. Virgil, his devotees, his commentators, his imitators, and his worthy translators, would not comprehend, nor desire to comprehend, the methods strewn through the pages of this volume. Read Virgil in isolation from this book, and with the reverence that is his due; and if this is not sufficient, then seek the guidance of the ancients or that of their successors, the Humanists.
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