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Epic Tradition

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Topics for Response Papers

Remember, be selective. Don't try to answer the entire question, but choose one or two key scenes or characters or images to formulate your answer. And back up what you say with specific citations or quotations.

Aeneid, Books 1-2

From the opening three words of the epic, Vergil is echoing scenes, formulas, similes, and other aspects of Homer's verbal art. At the same time, Vergil is creating a new poem with a much different protagonist and different themes. Explore how Vergil has transformed Homer by echoing (or not) key similes, scenes, formulas, etc. Possible passages might be the Venus and Jupiter, Aeneas' meeting with his mother Venus, the banquet scene at end of Book 1, Priam's death, or Aeneas and Creusa. In short, how does Vergil clearly reference Homer but also create a different kind of hero, a different kind of poem?

Aeneid, Books 3-5

In Books 3-5, there are multiple voices battling to be heard, to be granted or denied authority: the words and advice given by those whom Aeneas and the Trojans meet, oracles and those who interpret them, Dido, Sychaeus, Juno, Aeneas, Iarbas, the Trojan women, Ascanius, or Anchises. Who do we side with and why do we side with them? And just as importantly, how do they establish their authority over characters in the poem and over us as we listen to their voices?

Aeneid, Books 6-8

Past, present, and future are foregrounded in Books 6-8. Compare Homer's version of time with Vergil's. Think about Homer's use of traditional referentiality, the shield of Achilles, and/or various prophecies and compare them (or a selection) with prophecies, visions, or ekphrases in the Aeneid. What do these two different attitudes of time have on how we interpret human existence and purpose in each work?

Aeneid, Books 9-12

Vergil is writing the Aeneid in the aftermath of the conflict between Latin allies and Romans and internal civil war, first between Pompey and Caesar and then between Antony and Octavian. A similar conflict plays out in Books 9-12 between the native Latins and invading Trojans. Does Vergil offer a compromise? a blended family? destruction and subjugation of the Latins and/or Trojans? In other words, how does the poem deal with these opposing sides and the creation of a Roman identity?

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