This paper explores the aesthetics of miniaturization in Statius’ Silvae 2.7, in relation to Statius’ unexpected decision to write a tribute to the dead epic poet Lucan in hendecasyllables. The choice of a meter associated with irreverence, ephemerality, speed, and fun has been variously justified as expressing the poet’s ambivalent mood—mourning and celebration combined—or encapsulating his subject’s brief life. This paper builds on these explanations from a different angle. The epitome of miniature, playful poetry in the Silvae is the pseudo-Virgilian Culex (Gnat), mentioned first in Statius’ opening preface as a model for his collection and then in the tribute to Lucan as a yardstick for the young poet’s precocity. This is no casual coincidence. Statius’ résumé of baby Lucan’s future career uses techniques of retrospective prophecy similar to those with which the Culex-poet anticipates and absorbs Virgil’s entire oeuvre. Other clues suggest that Statius is engaging with the faked juvenile work more than sporadically, writing the equivalent for Lucan in the smallest meter imaginable while aiming to surpass both Virgil and Lucan as a poet of speed and synoptic vision.
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Research Article| April 01 2021
Lucan’s (G)natal Poem: Statius’ Silvae 2.7, the Culex, and the Aesthetics of Miniaturization
Classical Antiquity (2021) 40 (1): 45–75.
Emily Gowers; Lucan’s (G)natal Poem: Statius’ Silvae 2.7, the Culex, and the Aesthetics of Miniaturization. Classical Antiquity 1 April 2021; 40 (1): 45–75. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/ca.2021.40.1.45
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