Andre Chenier and the Latin love elegy : a study in Neo-classicism
It has long been assumed that in his cult of Antiquity Andre Chenier drew the major inspiration for his poetry from Ancient Greece. This thesis seeks to demonstrate that Chenier was even more indebted to Rome and to the transmission of Greek culture in its Latin form. Chenier's Elegies have been chosen to illustrate this proposition and to show how the poet, taking the Latin elegists as models, produced poetry that was both traditional and highly original. The Elegies are examined in the context of Neo-classicism. Chenier's life highlights the development of his love of Antiquity and gives insight into the personal experiences which, for him, could only be expressed within the Classical Tradition. The depth of his scholarship and methods of assembling material from Latin sources are revealed by analysis of his library and manuscripts. Eighteenth century studies of Elegy indicate that Chenier's interpretation of the Latin elegists was greatly influenced by Abbe Souchay and others. Similarly his literary principles, for example la naivete and imitation inventrice, are discussed in relation to the views of theorists including Winckelmann and Abbe Dubos. Finally, Chenier's poems are linked closely to the elegies of Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid, showing the renewal of Latin Elegy in thought and style. The distinctive quality of Chenier's verse is established by comparison with Le Brun, Parny, and Bertin, who imitated the same models. This thesis puts forward three important considerations. It underlines the unsatisfactory nature of editions of the Elegies, concluding that a new edition should enlarge the Lycoris poems, and incorporate the literary implications of G. Buisson's identification of D'.z.n - Camille. Secondly, it demonstrates that, contrary to accepted opinion, Chenier was dependent above all on Propertius. Thirdly, it challenges previous criticisms of the Elegies, suggesting that Chenier is never more original than when giving expression to the themes which form the essence of Latin Elegy.