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Lucan and Virgil: From Dante to Petrarch (and Boccaccio)

Facchini, B; (2020) Lucan and Virgil: From Dante to Petrarch (and Boccaccio). International Journal of the Classical Tradition , 27 pp. 1-22. 10.1007/s12138-018-0482-x. Green open access

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Abstract

Many recent works on ‘Dante’s Lucan’ emphasize the opposition between Lucan and Virgil in the Divine Comedy. To different extents, these studies appear informed by 20th-century views of the Bellum Civile as an anti-Aeneid, meant as a parodic subversion of Virgil’s poem and characterized by a turn from mythology to history, an anti-imperial agenda and an anti-providential, ‘nihilistic’ stance. Building on an argument put forth by Ettore Paratore, this article contends that rather than reading Virgil and Lucan in conflict with one another, Dante regards and reuses the figures and works of the two Latin poets as fundamentally consonant with each other. In keeping with high-medieval Latin commentaries on Lucan, Dante interweaves Lucan’s and Virgil’s texts in his Comedy to evoke the same world of ancient history and magic. In the Monarchia and Epistles, Dante combines the Bellum Civile and the Aeneid to support his philo-monarchic agenda, effacing the contrast between Roman Republican and Imperial values. Furthermore, Dante cites Lucan as a reliable moral–philosophical authority: in the Convivio he appropriates Lucan’s voice and applies to the Bellum Civile the same allegorizing reading he adopts for the Aeneid. The article demonstrates the difference between Dante’s and slightly later, early-humanist views of Lucan in relation to Virgil. Unlike Dante, Petrarch sponsors a strongly biographical conception of the ancient epic canon: following Suetonius, he highlights the most controversial aspects of Lucan’s life and the concept of his poetic rivalry with Virgil, which are absent in Dante’s works. The elements are also recalled by Boccaccio, who moreover underlines Lucan’s anti-Neronian stance. Therefore, Petrarch and Boccaccio play a historically crucial role in marking the contrast between Lucan’s and Virgil’s poetic personae. However, the concept of Lucan’s anti-Virgilianism, which underlies 20th-century interpretations of the Bellum Civile, is much more nuanced in 14th-century receptions of the poem, where it emerges only gradually and in a very limited, mostly biographical, sense.

Type: Article
Title: Lucan and Virgil: From Dante to Petrarch (and Boccaccio)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s12138-018-0482-x
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12138-018-0482-x
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author(s) 2018. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Greek and Latin
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10069504
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