The University of Exeter BA Hons Classics (2.1) 2015
The University of Exeter MA Classics (result pending, distinction predicted) 2016
Lucanian Transformations: Civil War, Necromancy, and the Resurrection of Rome
Professor Bruce Gibson & Dr Alexei Zadorozhny
My thesis aims to construct an alternative interpretation of the violence, anger, and passionate rhetoricity of Lucan’s Bellum Civile, working from the premise that Lucan’s epic is primarily concerned with processes of literary and political transformation. Many previous analyses of Lucan’s work alongside that of his epic predecessors have explored his adaptation and transformation of epic genre and form, innovations which mimic his turbulent and unpredictable subject. Lucan highlights many transformatory processes throughout his epic, such as the perversion of Roman laws, the conflict of bodies with themselves, and the unorthodox response of human blood to the violence of civil war. Rather than dismiss such imagery as being merely symptomatic of cataclysmic civil war, however, I propose that its abundance indicates a sustained focus upon the theme of transformation, rather than destruction, throughout the work.
Much of this imagery is concentrated in the ‘Necromancy Episode’ (BC VI. 624-830), which constitutes a microcosm for the transformatory processes of the epic as a whole. The historical irrelevance of this episode has sparked debate over its significance within the Bellum Civile, while its grotesque nature has allowed it to be branded as a key example of Lucanian irreverence towards Virgil’s Aeneid, an inversion and perversion of Aeneas’ descent into the underworld. However, considering Lucan’s use of bodily-based transformatory imagery throughout the Bellum Civile, the reanimated corpse central to this necromancy process may be interpreted as a representation of the Roman state, an interpretation which recalls the comparable development of Aeneas’ character in Virgil’s katabasis. The corpse’s violent resurrection thus assumes important metapoetic and political connotations, and may be read parallel to Rome’s frenzied metamorphosis from broken republic to an enduring empire, as well as Lucan’s own manipulation of epic decorum. This primary focus upon Lucanian necromancy will allow for further analysis of the broader contents and implications of the epic as a whole.
Latin Literature, Latin Imperial Epic (particularly Lucan and Valerius Flaccus), Ancient Rhetoric, Greek Tragedy, The Classical ‘Hero’, The Classical Tradition in Late Antiquity, Classical Receptions in Opera.