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Title: Songs of Subjection: Slavery and Vergil's Eclogues
Authors: Dennis, Katherine
Advisors: Baraz, Yelena
Contributors: Classics Department
Keywords: Ancient Slavery
Latin literature
Roman social history
Triumviral history
Subjects: Classical literature
Ancient languages
Classical studies
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation argues that Vergil’s Eclogues are shaped by the logic of Roman slavery. Instead of seeing Latin pastoral as an entirely imaginary, Hellenized, or metapoetic landscape, I read the text alongside a variety of sources including agronomy, historiography, and material, legal, and epigraphic evidence to demonstrate how the world of the Eclogues reflects psychological infrastructures of mastery. This fact makes the Eclogues a productive social historical document. Additionally, I explore how the collection’s thematization of slavery and subjection is constructed in response to the social and political crises of the Triumviral period and against recent histories of violent resistance among enslaved herdsmen in Italy and Sicily. The first chapter underscores the relevance of agriculture in Vergilian pastoral, arguing that the shepherds of the Eclogues are depicted on agro-pastoralist villas and that this choice is politically coded; then, to contextualize Vergil’s intervention in contemporary discourse, I discuss how the broader Roman “agricultural imaginary” was predicated on but dismissive of enslaved labor. The second chapter analyzes the landscape of the collection as marked by both an affective entanglement between speakers and their environments and a hierarchical value system that mystifies the power dynamics of the villa. The third chapter considers how Vergil’s poetic landscape reflects the current political landscape by placing the poems’ geographic references in their historical and cultural contexts, highlighting their allusions to the subjection of and traffic in human bodies through which Roman hegemony operated. A coda to the chapter argues for a new reading of a paradigmatic metaliterary phrase in Eclogue 6 (deductum carmen) through the lens of colonization. The fourth chapter argues that the concept of property is central to Vergil’s intervention in the pastoral genre and analyzes the kinds of property, both human and nonhuman, the Eclogues contains. The fifth and final chapter unpacks the ideological significance of enslavement in the collection by examining the concepts of labor and leisure as they relate to pastoral song. Ultimately, I demonstrate that the Eclogues are legible through the lens of agricultural slavery, but they both intentionally and unintentionally distort the system for ideological and political purposes.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Classics

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