Placement and Pedagogy in the <i>Georgics</i>

Andrew Wallace

in Virgil's Schoolboys

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199591244
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595561 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Placement and Pedagogy in the Georgics

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This chapter examines some of the ways in which the Georgics, ostensibly a didactic poem on agricultural management, was celebrated by early modern schoolmasters, writers of textbooks on logic, and educational reformers. It argues that the poem's legacy (for example, in Bacon's description of The Advancement of Learning as a ‘Georgickes of the mind’) is embedded in a series of longstanding debates about the instrumentality of literary texts in the humanist schoolroom. This is a fitting pedagogical legacy for a poem that engages so deeply with the traditions of ancient didactic poetry. The Georgics never sheds its association with the rhetoric of instruction, and this chapter aims to demonstrate how Virgil's poem became enmeshed in a network of self-reflexive pedagogical discourses. The chapter concludes by examining the narrative episode that closes the Fourth Georgic. At the conclusion of Virgil's didactic poem, the nymph Cyrene distills from a haunting song about the doomed lovers Orpheus and Eurydice a list of actions for her son to perform. This is a famous episode, but the scholarly tendency to minimize or ignore Cyrene's role at the end of the poem has obscured Virgil's interest in the radical contingencies of instruction. Renaissance editors, commentators, and illustrators grappled uneasily with Virgil's attempt to make the language of presence and placement integral components of Cyrene's tuition. More significantly, they struggled with the notion that successful instruction could culminate in a scene in which the teacher might still need to be present.

Keywords: advancement; Aristaeus; Bacon; bugonia; Chauveau; Cleyn; commentary; didactic; Eurydice; Fasti; Fleming; Milton; Mulcaster; Ovid; precept; Proteus; Virgil

Chapter.  21615 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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