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Generic Interplay in and after Vergil

Symposium Cumanum 2020

Villa Vergiliana, Cuma

June 24–26, 2020

Co-directors: Brittney Szempruch (United States Air Force Academy) and John F. Miller (University of Virginia)

Although Vergil famously opens the Aeneid with a definitive statement of poetic intent—arma virumque cano—scholarship has long highlighted the poet’s propensity for the complication of firm generic boundaries. Amid a range of theoretical responses that have shaped the past nearly one hundred years (Kroll 1924; Cairns 1972; Fowler 1982; Conte 1986; Harrison 2007), the Vergilian corpus has emerged as some of the most productive ground for the in-depth study of generic flexibility (e.g. Nelis 2004; Seider 2016).

On its broadest level, this symposium aims to bring together scholars to discuss how the works of Vergil illuminate questions about genre and literary identity in the ancient world. In addition to looking at generic interplay in Vergil’s poetry, we seek to examine the role that genre has played in Vergil’s afterlife, both among his contemporaries and in later ages: how, particularly in relation to Vergil’s poems, did genre create or elide perceived boundaries and/or affiliations between authors in antiquity? What cultural implications did explicit or implicit generic interplay have? How has genre shaped not only our understanding of Vergil and what it meant to be an Augustan poet, but our reception (‘after’ in another sense) of the earlier genres with which he engaged? What do we gain and lose by putting Vergil at the forefront of this narrative?

Both textual studies and theoretical interventions are welcome. Papers might consider (but are not limited to) the following topics:

  • Ÿ ‘Greek’ vs. ‘Roman’ genres across Vergil’s poetry
  • Ÿ Vergil’s reception of Hellenistic generic theory and experimentation
  • Ÿ the presence of nonpoetic genres (scientific, philosophical, etc.) in the Vergilian corpus
  • Ÿ hymn, epigram, and tragedy in Vergil
  • Ÿ elegy and Vergilian pastoral
  • Ÿ ‘didactic’ and heroic epic
  • Ÿ the reception of Vergilian generic conventions
  • Ÿ the centrality of (and/or bias toward) Vergil in discussions of genre in antiquity

Speakers will include Giancarlo Abbamonte (Naples–Federico II), Alessandro Barchiesi (NYU), Sergio Casali (Rome–Tor Vergata), Stephen Harrison (Oxford), Julia Hejduk (Baylor), Alison Keith (Toronto), Giuseppe La Bua (Rome–Sapienza), James O’Hara (UNC Chapel Hill), Vassiliki Panoussi (William & Mary), Stefano Rebeggiani (USC), Fabio Stok (Rome–Tor Vergata), and Adriana Vazquez (UCLA).

Papers will be 20 minutes long with ample time for discussion. Participants will arrive on June 23 followed by three full days of papers, discussion, and visits to Vergilian sites.

Interested scholars should send an abstract of no more than 300 words to vergilandgenre2020@gmail.com by December 1, 2019.

For inquiries and further information, contact the directors:

Brittney Szempruch (brittney.szempruch@usafa.edu)

John Miller (jfm4j@virginia.edu)


Cited Works

Cairns, F. 1972. Generic Composition in Greek and Roman Poetry. Edinburgh.

Conte, G. B. 1986. The Rhetoric of Imitation: Genre and Poetic Memory in Virgil and Other Latin Poets. Cornell.

Fowler, A. 1982. Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and

Modes. Harvard.

Nelis, D. 2004. “From Didactic to Epic: Georgics 2.458–3.48.” In Latin Epic and

Didactic Poetry: Genre, Tradition and Individuality, ed. M. Gale. Swansea: 73-107.

Harrison, S. J. 2007. Generic Enrichment in Vergil and Horace. Oxford.

Kroll, W. 1924. “Die Kreuzung der Gattungen.” Studien zum Verständnis der römischen

Literatur: 202–24.

Seider, A. M. 2016. “Genre, Gallus, and Goats: Expanding the Limits of Pastoral in

Eclogues 6 and 10.” Vergilius 62: 3–23.

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(Photo: "Handwritten" by A. Birkan, licensed under CC BY 2.0)