Title

The Decline of Poetry in the Fourth-Century West

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-2009

Department

Classical Studies

Language

English

Publication Title

International Journal of the Classical Tradition

Abstract

Historians of Latin literature of late antiquity agree that besides a more stable economy and political environment, the fourth and early fifth centuries saw a renaissance of Latin literature. Yet given this apparent consensus, poetry in this period lacked its traditional cultural authority; that is, poetry's ability to be intellectually and culturally relevant had been significantly curtailed. Patristic prose (Lactantius, Ambrose, Augustine) played a decisive role in determining what kind of poetry was permissible in the Roman Christian empire of the fourth century and influenced poetry's status in subsequent centuries. Although the major poets (Juvencus, Proba, Ambrose, Ausonius, Paulinus of Nola, Prudentius, and Claudian) have received well-deserved scholarly attention, their work reflects poetry's marginalized cultural status. The notion of a fourth-century revival for poetry should be scrutinized according to criteria that takes into account the subsidiary role of poetry within the church-dominated society of the age, and according to its reception in the Christian and secular literary histories that have since followed.

Comments

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DOI

10.1007/s12138-009-0131-5

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