The controversy over Virgil's optimism or pessimism, which has long absorbed readers of his poetry, might fruitfully yield to a perspective which allows contradictions to stand unresolved, to constitute, in fact, the essence of his poems' meaning. So interpreted, the pervasive contradictions of the Georgics are not problems to be solved, but expressions of the poet's vision of fundamental tensions in human experience.
Focusing on the figure of the poet in his relationship to the farmer, Professor Perkell studies oppositions between power and beauty, profit and art, matter and spirit, which are critical to the poem's meaning. She points to the poet's privileging of myth over praeceptum, of divine revelation over experiment and practice, and of mystery over solution. The poem's oppositions find ultimate expression in the bougonia, literally false as Georgic precept but metaphorically true as image of Iron Age technology and culture. Through this metaphor, the poet suggests the high value of his own truth and implicitly challenges the values of the agricultural, material poem which the Georgics on its surface professes to be.
Shaped by insights of reader-response and structuralist criticism, this new study of the Georgics should interest Classicists and students of literature.
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