Digressions, intertextuality, and ideology in didactic poetry

Monica R. Gale

in Forgotten Stars

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199586462
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191724961 | DOI:
Digressions, intertextuality, and ideology in didactic poetry

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A characteristic feature of the didactic genre is the inclusion of ‘set-piece’ digressions, more or less clearly marked off from the surrounding expository material. This chapter argues that such digressions are a locus of particularly intense intertextual engagement with poetic predecessors, offering a clear opportunity for the poet to situate his own work within a range of (in a broad sense) political frameworks. This hypothesis is explored through detailed analysis of three passages of Manilius’ Astronomica: the history of civilization at the beginning of Book 1; the digression on the premonitory functions of comets at the end of the book; and the brief series of vignettes of the four seasons towards the end of Book 3. In each case, Manilius’ dialogue with earlier didactic poets (especially Lucretius and Virgil) can be shown to serve a squarely Augustan ideology, underlining the analogy between cosmic and political order implicit throughout the poem.

Keywords: Aratus; Augustan ideology; didactic poetry; digression; Golden Age; Hesiod; intertextuality; Lucretius; Manilius; Virgil

Chapter.  7086 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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