Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Late antique Latin patchwork poems piece together genre and original text

Ancient Roman bust (so-called "Bust of Ve...Bust of Virgil

Texts comprising only quotations of somebody else's work are often referred to as plagiarism. Many researchers have also rejected Late Antique Latin cento poetry – cento means patchwork in Latin – as being of no literary merit. However, recent years have seen an increase in interest in cento poetry, and a thesis on Latin from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, has now shown that these poems can be both innovative and thought-provoking.

Sara Ehrling has studied two centos made up solely of quotes from Virgil, one of the Romans' leading poets whose works included the epic poem, the Aeneid. The two poems are both wedding poems, one of which was written by Ausonius in the late 4th century, and the other by Luxorius 100 years later.

"My research shows that the poems generally take a different approach to both the genre of wedding poetry and the original text, in other words Virgil's work," says Ehrling. "Ausonius takes his quotes from several different places in Virgil's work, while Luxorius takes many of his from those parts of the Aeneid that describe the love story between Dido, the queen of Carthage, and Aeneas, the Trojan prince."

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