Horace and the Ancient Grotesque
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Townshend, James Raynham
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CitationTownshend, James Raynham. 2018. Horace and the Ancient Grotesque. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the grotesque as both a concept and a phenomenon in the work of the poet Horace. Horace is a key figure in the development of theories of the grotesque, but this aspect of his work has not been studied in detail by either theorists of the grotesque or classical scholars. Proper appreciation of Horace’s treatment of the grotesque enriches both our understanding of the grotesque as an abiding feature of western European aesthetics and our knowledge of the aesthetic and intellectual milieu of the Augustan age.
After a theoretical introduction surveying modern concepts of the grotesque, Chapter 1 offers a reading of the Ars Poetica where Horace articulates and defends the grotesque as an aesthetic idea. In the poem, he demonstrates how the grotesque fuses together categorically distinct elements into a single whole. He also indicates that these unities should provoke from their audience an ambivalent reaction mixing fear or disgust with humour. Horace’s argument in this poem is consistent with the aesthetic principles expressed in the rest of his poetry. The subsequent chapters survey Horace’s use of the grotesque in the rest of his poetry, with the exception of the Carmen Saeculare. Chapter 2 explores the Satires and particularly the way the grotesque fits with Horace’s own conception of the genre as a designed mishmash that blends the serious and the playful. Chapter 3 treats the Epodes, the iambic character of which generates expectations of a kind of aggressive humour closely associated with the grotesque. The grotesque is also brought into play by the lingering threat of civil war. In Chapter 4 I discuss the Odes, where the grotesque repeatedly intrudes into Horace’s lyrical world, especially in his presentation of lovers and poets. Chapter 5 examines the Epistles. Horace makes particular use of beast-fables as a device to generate the grotesque. He also uses the grotesque to establish thematic links between the Epistles and the Odes.
This dissertation demonstrates the versatility and validity of the grotesque in Horace’s poetry and constitutes the first step towards understanding an ancient theory of the grotesque.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:42015355
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