Departmental Papers (Classical Studies)

For over two centuries Penn has offered a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs representing all aspects of the broad field of Classical Studies, from languages and literature to history, archaeology and cultural studies. The Department encourages interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to teaching and research and maintains productive ties with a variety of programs, including Religious Studies, English, Comparative Literature, Medieval Studies, Philosophy, Linguistics, Italian Studies, History of Art, and the Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.



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Now showing 1 - 10 of 61
  • Publication
    Comic Parrhêsia and the Paradoxes of Repression
    (2013-01-01) Rosen, Ralph M; Rosen, Ralph M
    Comic satirists such as Aristophanes thrive on the tension that arises from their need to ridicule prominent figures of contemporary society and the possibility that this ridicule will cause genuine offense. The history of satire is full of complaints by authors that they work in a dangerous profession, and that their detractors fail to appreciate their high-minded, often explicitly didactic intentions. In such moments, satirists attempt to leave the impression that those who try to repress their freedom to mock and abuse are unwelcome obstacles to their enterprise. It is precisely such allegations of risk and danger, however, that make for effective satire and allow satirists to present themselves as comically “heroic” in the first place. And if satire requires a fraught, antagonistic relationship between author and target, we cannot trust the satirist’s account of the relationship or accept the claim that the alleged oppression is unwelcome. This study begins with such conundra in Aristophanes, and examines comparative evidence from other periods and literary forms, including Homer’s Thersites, Horace, Socrates and Lenny Bruce.
  • Publication
    The Plan of Athena
    (1995) Murnaghan, Sheila; Murnaghan, Sheila
    The Odyssey opens by dramatizing the Olympian negotiations behind its action, and the goddess Athena quickly emerges as the source and sponsor of the plot that follows. All of the gods except Poseidon are gathered in the halls of Zeus listening to his meditations on a story that is already concluded, the story of Agamemnon. Athena tactfully shifts Zeus' attention to the story that is on her mind, the still-unconcluded story of Odysseus. When Zeus allows that it is indeed time for Odys seus to return, she responds with a ready set of plans that constitute the two lines of action occupying the next twelve books of the poem: the adventures of Telemachos, initiated by her own visit to Ithaka in the guise of Mentes, and Odysseus' release from the island of Kalypso, initiated by Hermes sent as a messenger from Zeus (1.80- 95). At the end of that phase of the action, Athena takes an even more direct hand in events, meeting with Odysseus as he reaches the shore of Ithaka in Book 13 and devising with him the plot that will control the second half of the poem.
  • Publication
    Roman Homer
    (2004-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    Latinists are accustomed to measuring Homer’s presence in Rome by his impact on Roman poetry. Epic looms largest in this regard, but most poetic genres can be regarded to some extent as derivatives of Homer. And even outside of poetry, Homer’s impact on Latin letters is not small. But the reception of Homer by Roman culture is a very widespread phenomenon that is hardly confined to literature. Homerising literature in Latin needs to be understood as part of a much broader and more pervasive Homeric presence in material culture and social practice. Abundant evidence from the material and social spheres shows that elite Romans lived in a world pervaded by Homer, and would have done whether Roman poets had interested themselves in Homer or not. That the poets did so should be regarded as an outgrowth of material and social considerations rather than as their source. This is not to challenge traditional ideas about the importance of literary–historical engagements with Homer by Livius Andronicus, Ennius, Virgil and others. Such ideas have been voiced many times, and each of these important authors is in his own way justified to claim the title of ‘the Roman Homer’. But habitual celebration of poetic achievement without due attention to the broader cultural milieu in which the poets worked has produced a very partial picture of Homer’s presence throughout Roman culture. Accordingly, in part one of this essay I will survey the nonliterary presence of Homer in Rome and elsewhere in Italy as a context for understanding Homeric elements in the realm of Roman literature. In the second half of the essay, I will proceed to literary evidence, but will focus on those aspects that look to the circulation of Homer in Roman social life, again as a context for more belletristic performances of Homer. In following this procedure, I do not mean to give short shrift to such monuments of Homeric culture as Ennius’ Annales and Virgil’s Aeneid. Rather, I hope to redress an imbalance between the use of literary and nonliterary evidence in assessing Homer’s impact at Rome.
  • Publication
    Naming Names, Telling Tales: Sexual Secrets and Greek Narrative
    (2014-01-01) Murnaghan, Sheila; Murnaghan, Sheila
    As Creusa finds the courage to reveal her long-concealed union with Apollo, Euripides aligns the powerful narrative at the heart of his Ion with the disclosure of a sexual secret. Such disclosures make good stories, interesting in part for their sexual content, but even more, I suggest, for the circumstances that lead to their telling. As Peter Brooks argues in Reading for the Plot, narratives engage us in the desires of their characters, which we follow through a trajectory of frustration and fulfillment, propelled by a corresponding passion for knowledge. Among the strongest of those desires, more powerful even than erotic longing or material ambition, is the wish to tell one’s own story, “the more nearly absolute desire to be heard, recognized, listened to” (Brooks 1984: 53), so that narratives often include an account of their own origin in a character’s quest for recognition. But a story like Creusa’s can only be told after a difficult struggle with fear and shame, which have to be overcome before one party in a sexual encounter breaks the bond of silence to reveal what had been a shared and exclusive secret.
  • Publication
    Goethe's Elegiac Sabbatical
    (2010-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    Any effort to interpret Goethe's career according to a single, pre-existing pattern would obviously be misconceived. Not only was his literary career a vast, sprawling thing in itself, but it was thoroughly intertwined with several others, including those of courrier, politician, diplomat, scientist and artist, Moreover, several of these callings interacted quite directly with his work as a writer. Even if we focus on Goethe's literary career in the narrowest possible sense, we cannot really speak in any simple way either of continuous Virgilian ascent through ever more elevated genres, or of Horatian retirement to an aesthetic angulus, or of any other model derived from the careers of Classical poets as the dominant lens through which to view Goethe's experience. And let us admit this at once: the evidence that Goethe himself modelled his own career upon any of these patterns is non-existent. In this respect he differs from Petrarch, Spenser, Marlowe, Milton and other poets who explicitly represent themselves as fashioning their careers after Virgilian, Horatian and Lucanian proto-types. All of this might seem to make Goethe an unpromising subject in the context of career studies.
  • Publication
    Introduction to Augustan Poetry and the Roman Republic
    (2013-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph; Nelis, Damien P
    A considerable body of recent scholarship has been devoted to investigating the ways in which societies remember, studying not only what they construct as memorable but also why and how they do so. Adopting a narrower focus, this volume examines the ways in which different aspects and images of the Roman Republic are created and exploited by the Augustan poets. Our subject immediately suggests two obvious strategies:- on the one hand, emphasis on a strictly historical project; on the other, concentration on versions of literary history. The latter has been more popular and influential in recent Latin scholarship, but the former has not been without its adherents, as the lively debate in recent historical research has fought over the value of ancient literary sources for reconstructing the early history of Rome and, crucially, for the origins of the Republic and the struggle of the orders. Simultaneously, recent work on Livy has provided strong support for a pre-Actian dating for the beginning of the composition of his history, and so has vastly improved our appreciation of the complexity and subtlety of this extraordinarily ambitious and influential historiographical project. In addition, more sophisticated readings of Roman historians in general that are themselves influenced by the application of New Critical techniques of dose reading developed by critics of poetic texts, have begun in turn to impinge on the ways in which the Latin poetry of the Augustan age is interpreted. Just as historical writers employ the materials of poetry and what we now call fiction-myth and metaphor, artful structuration, and the careful activation of intertextual possibilities involving models in both prose and verse-Augustan poets reveal their keen awareness of and interest in different historiographical modes, such as those of universal history, regal chronicles, and the tropes of annalistic writing. They are also interested in some of the characteristic themes and devices of historical writing, such as battle narrative, civil conflict, ethnography, speeches, and debates, even as they too engage intertextually with precise historiographical models in pointed and influential ways. The challenge for this volume, then, is not so much to ask whether the Augustan poets are concerned with Roman history, but to gain greater clarity with regard to the questions of how and to what end they may be seen as presenting their past as a specifically Republican history. In setting out to think about this vast topic, one which can only be treated in a highly selective manner in a book such as this, a series of obvious questions comes immediately to mind. Are there any particular aspects of the Republic that Augustan poets seem to remember with particular frequency and immediacy? Equally, are there any aspects they seem to prefer to forget? How do they shape the past in relation to the present: do they favour narratives of continuity, rupture, or repetition? What other forms of periodization do they adopt? And finally, how are we to define any given poet as 'Augustan'? Amidst such a bewildering array of questions, it seems advisable to attempt to seek some solid ground as a starting point.
  • Publication
    Reading Penelope
    (1994) Murnaghan, Sheila; Murnaghan, Sheila
    One consequence of the recent infusion of newer critical approaches into the study of classical literature has been a boom in studies devoted to the figure of Penelope in the Odyssey. While certain problems concerning Penelope's portrayal have always been part of the agenda for Homeric scholarship, the emergence of feminist criticism and an intensified concern with the act of interpretation have focused more and more attention on a female character who occupies a surprisingly central role in the largely male dominated genre of heroic epic and whose presentation is marked by contradictions and uncertainties that demand interpretive intervention. The question of how to read the character of Penelope has become a focal point for a series of larger issues: In what ways is a female character who comes to us mediated through the poetry of a distant and patriarchal era to be seen as representative of female experience? How should we account for textual mysteries such as those surrounding Penelope, and how can we incorporate them into our understanding of the work?
  • Publication
    Legal Action: The Trial As Theater in Aeschylus' Oresteia
    (2002-01-01) Murnaghan, Sheila; Murnaghan, Sheila
    Aeschylus' Oresteia is a key text for analyzing the relationship between law and drama both because it includes the earliest surviving instance of a trial scene in western drama and because it is explicitly concerned with the nature of trials, telling a story of repeated conflict that can only be resolved by the invention of the trial as a new form of action. First produced in Athens in 458 B.C, the Oresteia is a set of three connected tragedies, of which the final one, the Eumenides, concludes with the mythical first trial of a man for homicide, the trial of Orestes, the character who gives the trilogy its name. Orestes is tried for the murder of his mother Clytemnestra, a murder undertaken at the instigation of the god Apollo in retaliation for Clytemnestra's earlier murder of her husband Agamemnon, Orestes' father and the leader of the Greek expedition against Troy; in turn, retaliation for Agamemnon's sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia is one of Clytemnestra's several motives for his murder. These murders take place in Argos, the city ruled by Agamemnon's family, the House of Atreus, but the trial of Orestes takes place in Athens at a court, the court of the Areopagus, which is brought into being by the goddess Athena to adjudicate cases of homicide on this occasion and in the future. The trial in the Eumenides is at once a conclusion-the conclusion to the story of Orestes and his family-and a beginning-the inaugural use of this new court and the inauguration of legal action rather than revenge as the appropriate consequence of an act such as Orestes' matricide.
  • Publication
    Servius and the Homeric Scholia
    (2008-01-01) Farrell, Joseph; Farrell, Joseph
    When we speak of Servius' commentary on the works of Vergil, we understand that the name of Servius, which we use mainly for convenience, cloaks in apparent unity a work that is notable for its diversity and heterogeneity. This remark pertains not only to the existence of two Servian commentaries, the one written by Servius himself in the fifth century and the one compiled several centuries afterwards and eventually published by Pierre Daniel, but also to the diverse prior sources on which both these commentaries are based. It is well known that much of the material in these commentaries is tralatician. Except in a few specific cases, however, we cannot name either the proximate or the ultimate source of any given contribution, nor can we claim to understand fully the general principles that Servius followed in compiling his work. In this paper I will review some of those cases in which we can say with certainty or with reasonable probability how some specific passages in Servius took their current form, and will attempt to clarify what these instances can tell us about Servius' working methods in general. In order to keep this essay within manageable limits, I will confine my examination to passages in which the Servian commentaries show a strong affinity with the exegetical tradition of Homer.
  • Publication
    Suetonius the Ventriloquist
    (2014-01-01) Damon, Cynthia; Damon, Cynthia
    This chapter surveys Suetonius’ prose style, particularly his tendency to include the emperors’ own words in verbatim quotation. The metaphor of the ‘ventriloquist’ is apt for Suetonius, who frequently uses his biographical subject’s own language to display their character. This method is in direct contrast with the custom of Roman historians, especially Tacitus, who rewrites the original material in his sources, including speeches, to fit with the overall tone and texture of his own history. Suetonius permits the diction and rhythm of other writers to intrude in his biographies, but he does this for useful effect, and is not devoid of his own signatures of style and authorial voice. Suetonius’ prose is redeemed as more artful than in previous estimations, which have often found it to be plain and monotonous.