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MORGAN, MUSA PEDESTRIS: METRE AND MEANING IN
ROMAN VERSE. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Pp. x + 412. isbn 9780199554188. £74.00.
Journal of Roman Studies / Volume 102 / November 2012, pp 367 - 369
DOI: 10.1017/S0075435812000597, Published online: 02 November 2012
Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0075435812000597
How to cite this article:
David Buttereld (2012). Journal of Roman Studies, 102, pp 367-369 doi:10.1017/
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Downloaded from http://journals.cambridge.org/JRS, IP address: 126.96.36.199 on 13 Mar 2015 in the High Roman Empire). Johnson rightly reminds us of the extent to which authorial imagination lters the literary evidence for reading.
Werner’s bibliographical essay takes this volume from valuable to invaluable: an introductory survey is followed by a thematically indexed bibliography, covering not just classical literacy but also valuable comparanda from non-classical cultures. Olson’s thought-provoking epilogue is a helpful coda, arguing that the writing and reading of ideas depends on — and so promotes — a unique ability to conceptualize abstractly. It is thus a productive meditation on why literacy matters. Readers may not need to be told this, but if the volume proves anything it is the value of reappraisals and new approaches to old questions.
No rm thesis emerges, nor should one be expected. The topics and approaches it covers are as diverse as the kinds of activities and phenomena that must clearly be included under its titular heading. And questions remain: what might studies of poetic imaginings of books have to say of the social ramications of library and commerce practices? Despite evidence to the contrary in this volume, genre and period distinctions within Latin literature still keep valuable evidence needlessly separated. And though several contributors note with admirable caution the problems of applying the more evidence-rich Roman period to classical Greece, clearly solving that methodological puzzle would be immensely valuable. Lest we neglect the obvious reexivity of a book about books, editors and press should be commended for excellent production, proofreading, and indices and bibliography. The book as artifact more than lives up to its value as text. And any scholar of ancient texts with a glimmer of interest in context will nd something of use within.
Columbia University Joseph Howley firstname.lastname@example.org doi:10.1017/S0075435812000585
L. MORGAN, MUSA PEDESTRIS: METRE AND MEANING IN ROMAN VERSE. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2010. Pp. x + 412. ISBN 9780199554188. £74.00.
To write a manual of Latin metre is a simple enough task for the competent metrician; to write a detailed history of Latin metre is a more demanding but, though not yet convincingly attempted, realizable task; to write, however, a sensitive and sophisticated treatment of how Roman poets not only employed but also interacted with their metrical forms is a much more exacting and ambitious undertaking. Musa Pedestris is the fruit of more than a decade’s work: the result is a rich and energetic tour through a broad spectrum of Roman poetry. Although the book necessarily has limited coverage, and thus some surprising omissions, it has several facets that make it a rewarding read and a genuine stimulus for future research.
The book comprises a lengthy introduction followed by four chapters each dedicated to a given metre (or family of metres): hendecasyllables; iambics, especially choliambics and pure iambics; sapphics; dactylic hexameters, including their appearance in elegiac and epodic metres. The book ends with a brief conclusion, a disconcertingly brief bibliography, a full index locorum and a less full index rerum.
Although the division of the book into metre-specic chapters is a natural one, Morgan’s anfractuous style of argument means that the same ground is trodden more than once, often giving the impression that the volume expects specic consultation rather than consecutive perusal.
The introduction to Musa Pedestris is particularly interesting, tackling head-on the book’s aims and their place in the theory of classical literary criticism. M.’s primary goal is set in the context of Paul Fussell’s tripartite analysis (in his 1965 Poetic Metre and Poetic Form) of the ‘meanings’ that metre can convey, namely the elucidation of his third type — the force a metre and its literary-historical context can possess in Latin poetry. It is the signicance of metre via its associations, then, that is cardinal to this book, holding together its variegated readings of various verse forms. M.’s continual assumption is that Roman poets and their audiences were highly literate in metrical matters (yet more so than their Greek predecessors) and thus acutely sensitive to metrical play or posturing (‘metametricality’, 26). The illumination that acceptance of this context can bring to Latin literature is neatly demonstrated at the introduction’s close through two close readings of Catullus 17 (in priapeans) and Martial 3.29 (in sotadeans).
Ch. 1 (‘The Hendecasyllable: an Abbreviated History’) tackles the Phalaecian hendecasyllable, in particular its polysemous ambiguity in both origin and employment. M. begins with Statius (a prominent focus of the book) and his fashionable poem on the Via Domitiana (Silu. 4.3), advancing — perhaps with more passion than persuasion — its claims to technopaignia, before he
REVIEWS 367 turns to the inescapable backdrop hoisted by Catullus. By giving diligent attention, here as elsewhere, to the theorizing of ancient metricians (qualecumque est) about the true metrical basis of the hendecasyllable, M. instructively outlines why Catullus and his successors may have been ready to exploit the metre’s iambic associations as much as the festive and jocular. Unfortunately, Catullus’ metrical experimentation in 55 and 58b nds no greater treatment than a brief footnote (51 n. 7).