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Title: Epic reduction : receptions of Homer and Virgil in modern American poetry
Author: Platt, Mary Hartley
ISNI:       0000 0004 5367 4359
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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The aim of this project is to account for the widespread reception of the epics of Homer and Virgil by American poets of the twentieth century. Since 1914, an unprecedented number of new poems interpreting the Iliad, Odyssey and Aeneid have appeared in the United States. The vast majority of these modern versions are short, combining epic and lyric impulses in a dialectical form of genre that is shaped, I propose, by two cultural movements of the twentieth century: Modernism, and American humanism. Modernist poetics created a focus on the fragmentary and imagistic aspects of Homer and Virgil; and humanist philosophy sparked a unique trend of undergraduate literature survey courses in American colleges and universities, in which for the first time, in the mid-twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of students were exposed to the epics in translation, and with minimal historical contextualisation, prompting a clear opportunity for personal appropriation on a broad scale. These main matrices for the reception of epic in the United States in the twentieth century are set out in the introduction and first chapter of this thesis. In the five remaining chapters, I have identified secondary threads of historical influence, scrutinised alongside poems that developed in that context, including the rise of Freudian and related psychologies; the experience of modern warfare; American national politics; first- and second-wave feminism; and anxiety surrounding poetic belatedness. Although modern American versions of epic have been recognised in recent scholarship on the reception of Classics in twentieth-century poetry in English, no comprehensive account of the extent of the phenomenon has yet been attempted. The foundation of my arguments is a catalogue of almost 400 poems referring to Homer and Virgil, written by over 175 different American poets from 1914 to the present. Using a comparative methodology (after T. Ziolkowski, Virgil and the Moderns, 1993), and models of reception from German and English reception theory (including C. Martindale, Redeeming the Text, 1993), the thesis contributes to the areas of classical reception studies and American literary history, and provides a starting point for considering future steps in the evolution of the epic genre.
Supervisor: Harrison, Stephen; Taplin, Oliver Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: American literature in English ; Hellenic (Classical Greek) literature ; Italic literatures,i.e.,Latin ; classical reception ; twentieth-century American poetry ; Homer ; Virgil ; modernism