Allusion and Cultural Memory in Late Antiquity: Ausonius, Prudentius, and Claudian
Hartman, Joshua J.
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This dissertation explores the influence of poetry on the construction and perpetuation of culturally dominant narratives. I demonstrate that late antique poets were particularly sensitive to the effect that their work had on memory, and I focus on textual allusion as a mechanism that allowed poets to guide readers through negotiations of memory. My first chapter reveals an ancient understanding of cultural memory through a reading of a Republican, rather than a late antique work. My analysis of Cicero’s De Legibus reveals that Cicero, easily the most influential Roman intellectual, intuited the concept of lieux de mémoire, a modern theory of cultural memory that conceives of both texts and sites as “places” where memory can be rehearsed and reinforced. Furthermore, I show that Cicero understood poetry as a force that constructs, transforms, and defends such lieux and the narratives they represent. After establishing that Roman intellectual traditions engaged cultural memory, I turn to the late antique period, particularly to three case studies. Each of my subsequent chapters treats a widely-read poet of the late fourth century. I examine the negotiations of memory present in the works of the poets Ausonius, Prudentius, and Claudian in order to demonstrate a clear memory motivation in each author’s work. I begin with Ausonius, whose work provides an important foundational example; the poet uses allusion not only to construct lieux de mémoire about Gaul, his home province, but also to navigate personal anxieties about memory, forgetting, and commemoration. In contrast to these regionalist lieux de mémoire, the third chapter focuses on the more universalizing narratives of Prudentius’ Contra Symmachum. The poem’s Christian perspective on Roman imperial history advances ideas contentious for its time, and I examine the role allusion plays in acknowledging and delegitimizing competing traditions while reinforcing the Christian traditions valued by the poet. The final chapter identifies allusive strategies Claudian deployed in order to construct narratives about the general Stilicho and reveals that critics relied on allusion to refute such constructions. I conclude by revealing how Claudian’s allusions guided the recollection and self-reflection of his elite senatorial audience.