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Title: In search of present time : reading carpe diem
Author: Rohland, Robert Alexander
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 3656
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This thesis explores the motif of carpe diem. I argue that close analysis of the carpe diem motif can make a key contribution to questions of performance, textuality, and the evocation of present time, which are central to literary studies in and beyond classics. Carpe diem texts strive to transcend writing and the page of the book, so that they become truly present. How texts wrestle with this ambition, how they approach this ideal, or consciously fall short of it, is central for understanding how poetry writes now. The period of interest for this study reaches from Alexander the Great to the Latin satirist Juvenal, that is, from the dawn of the Hellenistic period to the time of the Roman Empire. Interactions of poetry with other forms of cultural production, such as art, inscriptions, monuments and music, are central to this thesis. Chapter 1 starts by tracing the archaeology of carpe diem. I look at the Greeks' own discourse of the past and how they constructed the origins of the motif. My focus is the hedonistic epitaph of the legendary last king of Assyria, Sardanapallus, and an epigrammatic tradition that can be linked to this epitaph. Two further chapters analyse carpe diem in Horace's poetry. I investigate how Horace's carpe diem poems evoke present enjoyment in ways that differ from early Greek lyric. Horace achieves this most notably through his treatment of wine (Chapter 2) and his word choice (Chapter 3). Chapter 4 analyses the relation between carpe diem and certain objects, such as cups and gems. It does so through Greek epigrams from the Garland of Philip and Latin texts of Petronius, Pliny the Elder, and Martial. This chapter combines close readings of rarely studied Greek literary epigrams with research into epigraphic sources and artefacts. Chapter 5 analyses how the carpe diem motif is cut up in anthologies and satires; the words still hint at performative song, but are now transformed into textual excerpts.
Supervisor: Gowers, Emily ; Hunter, Richard Sponsor: Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: carpe diem ; Horace ; Hellenistic ; epigram ; symposium ; convivium ; banquet ; performance