Title page for ETD etd-11152012-130619

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Russell, Jesse Bryan Burchfield
Author's Email Address jruss21@tigers.lsu.edu
URN etd-11152012-130619
Title Virgilís Shipwreck: How a Roman Poet Made and Unmade the Epic in the West
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Russo, Adelaide Committee Chair
Cope, Kevin Committee Member
Fletcher, Kristopher Committee Member
Stone, Greg Committee Member
Marchand, Suzanne Dean's Representative
  • Pound
  • Virgil
  • Spenser
  • Dante
Date of Defense 2012-11-02
Availability restricted
We are still feeling the effects of the Second World War sixty-seven years after its conclusion. Much of post-war thinking has attempted to sort through the roots of the totalitarian ideology that developed in Europe and caused such massive destruction. Marxist and Frankfurt School critics have demonstrated that the roots of Fascism go deeper in the West than the twentieth century and are part and parcel of the Westís combination of technology and myth. Additionally, Post-Colonial critics have pointed out that the horrors of this war were also perpetrated throughout Europeís colonial endeavors and have undertaken the task of deconstructing the ideology of European colonial powers. However, such criticism is both accurate and incomplete. Western civilization is not simply built upon ideology but also contains a long tradition of rational philosophy and self-criticism.

In the West, Plato helped formulate an early poetics that was used in education to form and shape the soul and thus the community. In the twentieth century, the Germany philosopher Martin Heidegger modified Platoís vision, showing how a people is formed through their culture and given their destiny. Plato and Heideggerís poetics can be applied to the work of the Roman poet Virgil. Through his Aeneid, Virgil establishes a tradition of forming an exemplum of empire. In his exemplum of empire, Virgil presents a hero, prophecies that support the empire, and a sympathic but nonetheless demonized Other. Following Virgilís lead, Dante Alighieri, Edmund Spenser, and Ezra Pound have sculpted their epics as imperial exempla. Each of these poets includes the Virgilian formula of a hero, prophecies, and an Other. At the same time, each poet develops a work that is not bound by imperialism but transcends its prejudice.

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