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Aetna and Aetnaism: Schiller, Vibrant Matter, and the Phenomenal Regimes of Ancient Poetry.

The past decade or so has seen a transformation of the landscape of speculative theory by various forms of new materialism which have sought to overturn the object relations of Kantian "correlationism," according to which we know neither things nor thinking in themselves, but only the relation between them. (1) Among the cognitive projects of speculative realism, object oriented ontology, and vibrant materialism, it is the latter that, in its advocacy of a fine grained attention to the agency of objects with which human beings share their life world, would seem to afford a new opportunity for the practice of literary scholarship. One may cleave closely to a Kantian epistemology or be indifferent to it one way or another, and yet be willing to admit that the objects of ancient poetry are livelier than we have been accustomed to acknowledge, and that there has been insufficient attention to the ways in which they constitute the field of agency in the poems in which they appear.

Alex Purves (2015) takes the vibrant materialism of Jane Bennett and Sara Ahmed as her point of departure for a reexamination of Ajax and his weapons, and the ways in which they constitute a single field of activity and resistance in the Iliad which is not yet constituted as soul, body, and its prostheses, but is still an aggregate of separate, self-moving parts actuated by their participation in material assemblages: the hand in action is one with the shield, for example, and does not belong more primordially to a body that is, as yet, still notional. Indeed, as Purves argues, new materialism might even be understood as a rediscovery of the pre-human being in the world of the Homeric hero, as it was controversially characterized by Bruno Snell--a project for investigation in the present that awaits its own chronicles of thick description. (2) One way in which we have never been modern is that we have not separated ourselves any more decisively than the Homeric heroes from the array of material presences among which we find ourselves.

In this paper I respond to the possibility of a renewed attention to the material regimes of ancient poetry in three ways. First, I show how Snell's characterization of the object world of Homeric poetry has its roots in Schiller's account of the modalities of subjectification in his Letters on Aesthetic Education. Second, I demonstrate how a material regime with abortive subjectivity as its outcome, which Schiller calls "the empire of the Titans," is continuously, if intermittently, explored in the tradition of classical poetry devoted to the representation of Etna and culminating in the first century Latin hexameter poem Aetna. And third, I suggest that the failure of a human observer to reduce its phenomenal experience to the terms of its own knowledge--the signature experience of the Etna tradition that I here call phenomenalization--exceeds the possibility of its recuperation by vibrant materialism, or other contemporary ontologies, precisely because it so dramatically privileges phenomenalization over ontology. The very vibrancy of the object world in this tradition points to a crucial weakness of new materialism in its project of recuperating phenomenal experience for theoretical understanding; indeed, it is the impossibility of any such project that animates the material regime of poetry in the Etna tradition.


In The Discovery of the Mind, Bruno Snell claimed that the work of objectification, fundamental to the self-understanding of the human being as subject, could be observed in the Homeric poems as an activity of the human being in distantiating itself from its surroundings which is still in progress. For example, in Homer's comparison of the front rank of an army to a rock that endures the winds and waves, he suggests that it is not quite correct to say that the rock is viewed anthropomorphically, "unless we add that our understanding of the rock is anthropomorphic for the same reason that we are able to look at ourselves petromorphically," since "the act of regarding the rock in human terms furnishes us with a means of apprehending and defining our own behavior." The phrasing is voluntaristic, but it is clear that Snell imagines the movement outside the human being in this exchange of perspectives as having an obligatory character, for he continues: "Man must listen to an echo of himself before he may hear or know of himself" (Snell 1953, 201). What rocks and human beings share is still being worked out here as part of the discovery of humanness in reflective self-understanding, but for Snell, once it has been worked out, it does not have to be repeated as an originary discovery. The progressive account of the discovery of the mind in the human being's distantiation of itself from the object world is an inheritable phylogenetic self-realization that does not need to be recapitulated by successive generations.

Snell's debt to Schiller's "On NaAaAaAeA ve and Sentimental Poetry" in t later chapters of The Discovery of the Mind is well known, (3) and obvious in the text itself, but what has received less attention in genealogies of Snell's account of subjective distantiation is Schiller's Letters on Aesthetic Education. Here, the distantiation of the human subject is crucial to the achievement of humanness as such, just as it is for Snell; but in contrast to Snell, the active participation of well-disposed nonhuman agents is crucial to the successful outcome of the human being's efforts to master the matter of its life world that sets them face to face with one another as subject and object. Thus, in the twenty-fourth letter, Schiller asserts that free human subjectivity is preceded by a condition of "immediate contact" with the world, in which objects press in upon us to destroy us, and it is only because "kindly Nature" (die gAaAaAeA nstige Natur) invites us distantiate ourselves that we learn to distinguish ourselves from things (24.2). In the twenty-fifth letter, Schiller suggests that it is because the Greeks so fully responded to this invitation that their art has its exemplary character: con-sociality with other natural beings follows from the acceptance of Nature's invitation to shared life and is what makes Greek art a perpetual homecoming for a humanity that has wandered away from its naturalness. "Kindly Nature" here plays the same role as "free Nature" in "On NaAaAaAeA ve and Sentimental Poetry." (

By contrast with the form of life afforded by free, or kindly, Nature, Schiller imagines a counter-world in which free subjectivity has not emerged because what is "sheer mass, ponderous and inchoate... its murky contours shifting with uncertain boundaries," has not allowed it to appear. This regime is, on the one hand, "the monstrous divinity of the Oriental, which rules the world with the blind strength of a beast of prey," and which shrinks "in the imagination of the Greeks into the friendly contours of a human being." But it is also the "empire of the Titans," which only falls when a human being, realizing the potential for freedom imaged by the Greeks, can "assert his independence in the face of nature as phenomenon" (Schiller 1967, 185). It is, in other words, both an Asiatic regime that precedes the free subjectivity of the Greeks as this is actuated by their relationship with kindly Nature, and an emic Greek regime that Schiller acknowledges both in its original Greekness and in its persistence into German philhellenism. He cites Goethe's Iphigenia in Tauris on the Titanism of pre-aesthetic human being: this pre-subject of immediate contact has the "vigorous marrow of the Titans" (der Titanen / Kraftvolles Mark ist sein) (Schiller 1967, 172).

The regime of matter that has the power to determine the inner experience of human beings according to the dictates of its own materiality has its origin in Greek anxieties about Titanic Nature, and its power to intervene in human subject formation. It is not that there is a doubleness in Schiller's Greek models which needs to be concealed or disavowed, for he acknowledges this doubleness candidly and, with it in mind, offers two versions of the constitution of human phenomenal experience by the nonhuman. One version is the kindly regime afforded by what is alive, and especially what is ontically higher than itself because it is more alive; the other, the modality of destructuration that obtains when the human being is not enabled by such entities to achieve its own realization as subject. Both of these outcomes may be thought of as modalities of interpellation, as Johann Fichte uses the concept of Aufforderung in his Foundations of Natural Right (1796) and System of Ethics (1798), which are almost exactly contemporary with Schiller's Letters on Aesthetic Education (1794) and "On NaAaAaAeA ve and Sentiment Poetry" (1795).

For Fichte, interpellation that leads to free subjectivity can only proceed from one free, rational subject to another, and the 'I' to which it is directed may accordingly need more than one opportunity to constitute itself in accord with such interpellation: "Precisely because I am free," Fichte asserts, the interpellation does not compel me to reflect; instead, I reflect "with absolute spontaneity." (5) In the System of Ethics, Fichte is not interested in interpellation by nonhuman entities or the abortive subjectivity that emerges from Schiller's Titanic mode of interpellation. "We are not charged with the task of bringing [society] into existence by ourselves," he claims, and suggests that "if a person were, let us say, born in the wilderness, he would surely be permitted to remain there" (Fichte 2005, 209). In the Foundations of Natural Right, however, Fichte does address the question that he says has been raised "with good reason" about the idea of interpellation, namely, "which effects can be explained only by reference to a rational cause." The answer he gives is that the production of cognition is the only effect that has an indubitably rational cause, and that the multiple occasions of interpellation that invite us to it are what we call upbringing (Erziehung): "All individuals must be brought up to be human beings, otherwise they would not be human beings" (2000, 35-38). (6)

Here, then, we do hear an echo of Schiller's abortive subjectivity, and while the upbringing of human beings by human beings is the only scene of interpellation that Fichte is interested in, this scene can be better understood when it is set within the contemporary project of theorizing and staging the constitutive role of nonhuman agency in grounding the free subjectivity of human beings in a larger horizon of shared life. (7) In the opening of Friedrich HAaAaAeA lderlin's "Der Neckar for example, poetic self-constitution through apostrophic invocation of natural entities in the present is pushed back into the past as what already happened to the poet when he was addressed by the river: "In deinen TAaAaAeAnlern wachte mein Herz mir auf / Zum Leben, deine Well umspielten mich." Apostrophe here is a responsive acknowledgment of what has already constituted the self as a self. Poetic responsiveness is the acknowledgment of that originary self-constitution from the outside, just as it is in the opening of Schiller's "Der Spaziergang": "Sei mir gegrAaAaAeA [ss]t mein Berg mit dem rAaAaAeA thlich strahlenden Gip / Sei mir Sonne gegrAaAaAeA [ss]t." Mountains and sun are "mine" because th have made me who I am. Apostrophe's responsiveness makes the poetic event a return of what is owed, and what has long since been felt to be owed, until the gift of the poem is offered in return.

What the contemporary poetology of interpellation stages, for the most part, are scenes of successful constitution in free subjectivity. Were it otherwise, there might be no poem, although HAaAaAeA lderlin's novel Hyperi avails itself of the possibilities of character and narrative to offer contrasting accounts of interpellation in the figures of Hyperion himself, who is keen to recapture the foundational experience of antiquity in its relationship to entities of the highest ontic prestige, especially the sun, and the domestic relationality of Diotima, whose labile, multi-relational conception of the household embraces, most immediately, the "kindly trees" around her house, in whose presence she realizes herself as "a blossom among the blossoms," in the company of "trusted confidants" who nod to her as a friend (HAaAaAeA lderlin 1990, 46, 121

In antiquity, by contrast, there is a continuous, if intermittent, tradition of staging the abortive outcome of free subjectivity in interpellation, and Etna is its classic site insofar as the volcanic activity of the mountain lays claim to the human witness for its own self-realization. At the beginning of the tradition, Pindar, in Pythian 1, makes us hear the mountain with an instance of onomatopoeic alliteration unparalleled in the victory odes: [phrase omitted] (1.24). (8) The poem veers away momentarily from the Olympian music of Apollo's lyre, which puts the eagle of Zeus and the war god Ares to sleep (1.6-12), to immerse the listener in the wakefulness of Titanic sound. Its wondrousness undoes object relations and plunges the human subject back into a childhood world of involuntary mimesis in which its destructured post-subject performs the behaviors of the directing nonhuman entity automatically, whereas elsewhere in the victory odes direct imitation is a prerogative of the gods. (9) As the phenomenal remainder of Typhon, imprisoned beneath the mountain, Etna is a reminder of what the end of the Olympian regime would feel like. Direct mimesis in Etna poetry mimes the loss of mastery over phenomenal experience, which is the subjective equivalent of the Titans' threat to the cosmic order. Instead of thinking the mountain, we are thought by it: Etna claims the human subject for an expression of itself.

The threat of involuntary mimesis that Etna instantiates in Pythian 1 is domesticated as a topos of literary emulation in the poem's reception. (10) Silius Italicus retains a displaced recollection of the original danger in his strange claim that Etna "imitates the fury of the sea" (Punica 14.59), but it is the anonymous first-century CE Latin poem Aetna that follows through on the suggestion of Titanic subjectivity that is briefly adumbrated in Pindar's Etna poem. To understand what is at stake in the poem's staging of the phenomenal experience of watching an eruption, I will read its scenes of autopsy with an eye to how they enact the possibility for interpellation as narrative experience, and, at the same time, briefly compare the overwhelming of theoretical understanding by the intimacy of knowing with the way in which this contrast between knowledge and knowing is staged in the Hellenistic didactic poems that are its generic kin.

Literary programmatic material naturally appears in the poem's proemium (1-8):
Aetna mihi ruptique cavis fornacibus ignes
et quae tam fortes volvant incendia causae,
quid fremat imperium, quid raucos torqueat aestus,
carmen erit. dexter venias mihi carminis auctor,
seu te Cynthos habet, seu Delo gratior Hyla,
seu tibi Dodone potior, tecumque faventes
in nova Pierio properent a fonte sorores
vota: per insolitum Phoebo duce tutius itur.

Aetna--the fires burst from hollow furnaces and the powerful causes of
the blazes it sends forth, what chafes at governance, what twists harsh
heats--will be my song. Come kindly to me, author of my song, whether
Cynthus holds you, or Hyla, more pleasing than Delos, or whether Dodona
is more powerful, and may the sisters hasten with you from the Pierian
spring to favor this new offering: on untraveled ways, it's safer going
with Phoebus as guide. (11)

F. R. D. Goodyear calls these lines "somewhat Alexandrian in tone," (12) and the proemium echoes the prologue to Callimachus's Aetia in no uncertain terms. The advice that Apollo offers the poet there is to avoid the main road and steer clear of the tracks of others by following unworn paths, even if the going is narrow ([phrase omitted], fr. 1.25-28 Harder). It is in this light that we should understand the choice of topic and the invocation of Apollo in the Aetna. The poem is the first work in antiquity devoted to volcanoes alone, (13) and its poetology imagines a total congruence between its poetics and its topic. (14) Etna and its song are one: fortes... causae--the natural causes of the mountain's material behavior and the [phrase omitted] of Callimachus--are responsible for the poem being the way it is. (15)

After thoroughly researching his novel topic, (16) the poet has written a very short poem about it. At less than 650 lines, the Aetna is conspicuously short, even by Alexandrian standards. (17) Brief as it is, however, much of the poem is taken up with its "rather overgrown" poetological introduction, (18) internal excurses, and a closing myth. (19) Its curious proportions foreground the poem's architecture in a way that is typical of second-generation Hellenistic didactic poetry: poems that look back to the Aetia as a model for the poet's relationship to knowledge but that exaggerate the characteristics of their model in emulating it.

Comparison with Nicander is illuminating. The two poems of Nicander that have survived in their entirety are the Theriaca, about venomous animals and the treatment of their wounds (958 lines), and the Alexipharmaca, about herbal medicines (630 lines). Along with the brevity of the individual poems, there is a resolute plurality in the corpus of Nicander's work as a whole. There are fragments of poems on geography, farming, beekeeping, minerals, and metamorphoses, but subject matters do not bleed into one another, as elements of his Georgics and Melissurgica are incorporated into a more comprehensive work in Virgil's Georgics, or as the topic of his Heteroeumena becomes the occasion for totalizing expansion in Ovid's Metamorphoses.

While keeping to a single topic, Nicander's organization of his material in the Theriaca obviates a harmonious relationship between instruction and delight. The poem is structured as a double catalogue: first, one set of animals and the treatment of the wounds they inflict, then another, on a reduced scale. This separation of wound and response does away with the use value a sequential ordering might have afforded. (20) A preference for variety over utility also informs the poem's interest in the folkloric. The best-known episode of the Theriaca tells how a thirsty donkey trades humankind's immortality to the dipsas snake for a drink of water (342-58). The tale makes little sense as an etiological fable, since it does not explain why snakes as a whole shed their skins, whereas the donkey made his exchange with a single species, and this point is hard to miss, given that the tale appears in the course of a catalogue of species of snakes. Nicander elsewhere offers scientific revisions of myth, such as the brain damage caused by the discus with which Apollo hits Hyacinthus in the head (905-6). From this perspective, the dipsas tale, in which Nicander embeds his signature as an acrostic running down the first letters of the lines, is a kind of hyperbole with respect to the inclusiveness of his models. Senseless, or misleading, mythological paradigms are already a hallmark of first-generation Hellenistic poetry (Fantuzzi 1995), and etiological stories are an apt vehicle for the deployment of the primitive and naive. (21) The Theriaca is signed at the moment of maximum permeability with respect to the stricter borders of narrative epic, and of maximum dissonance among its incorporated discourses. The presence of the most up-to-date scientific research alongside the most primitive folk explanation makes for a peculiarly Hellenistic poikilia.

Nicander's poetry has been called "polyhedral" (Touwaide 1991, 91) and the image of a multifaceted object that cannot be grasped synoptically is a good one for both the content and the style of his work. It is from this perspective that the combination of extreme brevity with intellectual and stylistic disaggregation in the Aetna is best appreciated. The poem's philosophical commitments have been understood to be Stoic, (22) Epicurean, (23) pure scientism, (24) an alliance between scientific investigation, myth critique, and traditional Roman piety, (23) and none of the above. (26) Any argument for intellectual coherence with respect to any one of these agendas has to reckon above all with the myth of the pious brothers of Catania with which the poem ends (602-45). Faced with a major eruption of Etna, the local inhabitants snatch up whatever they think is of value and flee. Those who take money, weapons, or poems are burnt alive, but the two young men who put their aged parents on their shoulders are saved when the flames part to allow them passage. (27) As lava chases the locals, its lore pursues the mountain itself: insequitur ummon tamen sua fabula montem (603).

The folktale, as the conclusion to a poem that urges its readers to dispense with the fabrications of poets and look with their own eyes, is a manifestation of poikilia in keeping with the inclusiveness of Hellenistic didactic poetry with respect to the sources for its topic. (28) Instead of seeking unity, Hellenistic didactic poetry is an occasion for perspectivism: the gathering of attestations without privileging them with respect to their truthfulness that Bruno Snell calls "post-philosophical." (29) The one story about Etna that we might have expected--the death of Empedocles--is the one we do not get, and its absence is an index of the poem's eschewal of the kind of poetry of knowledge that organizes its material according to a single epistemic system.

Snell's metric for the Hellenistic in poetry is the mutually disclosing relationship between the generativity of particular knowledge sets and the poetic consciousness that delights in them. The greatest exemplar of this relationship is Callimachus, whose relationship to knowledge is, on Snell's account, ludic and particularizing. Callimachus pours out a wealth of information, but there is no unifying idea, no intellectual objective, and no educational program, only a keen sense for the colorful variety of knowledge in all of its forms, which he incorporates into his poetry without the kind of hierarchical arrangement that would mean taking a position on its truth or utility. The post-philosophical poet's axis of interest is horizontal, not vertical. His poetry embraces incommensurability as its generative condition, and what is clear enough in Callimachus is exaggerated by later poets who look to his work as a way to model the relationship between the poetic consciousness and its objects.

The noncommittal poikilia of Aetna's concluding legend is manifest in many smaller instances of stylistic register, as the poem modulates between the technical and the naAaAaAeA ve, (30) but the perspectivism su shifts in register instantiate also has larger stakes in the poem, and its inconsistent attribution of human agency to the objects of scientific inquiry is its most significant gesture of allegiance with Hellenistic didactic poetry. The Theriaca makes its venomous creatures into Homeric heroes; Oppian's Halieutica, and pseudo-Oppian's Cynegetica, make nonhuman animals the subjects of epic and tragic action. (31) Aetna goes further than any of these poems by attributing human agency to minerals, and it is here that its materialism becomes vibrant, and more than vibrant--both vital and performative at once, such that the vivified matter of Etna is both fully alive and engaged in a kind of theatrical enactment of its capacity to impinge upon our attention and occupy our mind in the way that Schiller characterizes the "empire of the Titans" in its contingent sovereignty over our powers of distantiation.

The chief actor in this regard is the lava stone (lapis molaris) to which approximately one quarter of the poem is dedicated (400-566) and which lays claim to Etna as its own (vindicat Aetnam, 400), as it will lay claim to its human observer. (32) Experimental testing of lava stone is compared to judicial torture (Goodyear 1965, 176): sparks attest to its pain when struck, and fire shows its nature to be sensitive and fearful of harm (403-7). Once reduced by fire, however, it becomes as acquiescent as a domesticated animal: tanta est illi patientia victo (410). (33) Likewise, while it stands up to small fires, lava stone in a white-hot furnace cannot endure its fierce enemy: it is vanquished and its strength melts away as a captive (vincitur et solvit vires captusque liquescit, 551-53).

Here we seem to be in the presence of an erotic prisoner, as the eyes of the scientist delight in his victim's reduction, but lava stone in its natural habitat is a fighter not a lover. When Etna erupts, a flaming mass advances, "loaded with spoils" like a triumphal procession, (34) and bearing mutilated fragments of rock along with it (469-75):
illinc incertae facies hominumque figurae:
pars lapidum domita est, stanti pars robore pugnat
nec recipit flammas: hic indefensus anhelat
atque aperit se hosti, decrescit spiritus illi,
haud aliter quam cum laeto devicta tropaeo
prona iacet campis acies et castra sub ipsa.
tum si quis lapidum summo pertabuit igni,
asperior [dagger]sopitaes[dagger] et quaedam sordida faex est,
qualem purgato cernas desidere ferro.

Over there are uncertain appearances and shapes of men: some of the
rocks are conquered; some fight with upright strength and do not admit
the flames. This one pants defenseless and opens itself to the enemy;
its spirit weakens, just as soldiers defeated by triumphal standards
lie face down on the battlefield all around their camp. Then, if any
stone is afflicted with fire on its surface, it grows harder still,
like impure slag you see fall away from molten iron.

The Aetna poet tirelessly recommends autopsy as an alternative to deceiving fictions, because in autopsy things themselves encounter us without an intention to deceive (135, 179, 191, 331). Merely looking, however, in the manner of quiescent herd animals, is not sufficient for our humanity. We must learn to discipline our phenomenal experience with knowledge of its real causes, to master it such that we constitute what we see as objects and ourselves as subjects in the act of perception (223-25). We are in the presence of the drama that Schiller (1967, 185) describes:
From being a slave of nature, which he remains as long as he merely
feels it, man becomes its lawgiver from the moment he begins to think
it. That which hitherto merely dominated him as force, now stands
before his eyes as object. Whatsoever is object for him has no power
over him; for in order to be object at all, it must be subject to the
power that is his. To the extent that he imparts form to matter, and
for precisely as long as he imparts it, he is immune to its effects;
for spirit cannot be injured by anything except that which robs it of
its freedom, and man gives evidence of his freedom precisely by giving
form to that which is formless.

But what Aetna's great set piece of onsite autopsy stages is observation laboring at the threshold of what can properly be discerned, and losing the battle to objectify what it sees. As the focus shifts between close ups and long shots, the fragments of lava stone live and die before our eyes like human beings, before we return to "the prose of actual fact" in the reference to smelting (Ellis 2008 [1901], 189). For all its championing of autopsy as an alternative to literary fictions, the poem's centerpiece of first personal viewing enacts the failure of a theoretical mind to reduce phenomenal experience to the terms of its own knowledge. The poeticity of Nature is more disturbing to ordinary perception than the poetry of myth that is the target of the introduction's polemics. The poet asserts that "we have no cause for complaint" in the face of Nature, so long as effects are constant to their cause (non est hic causa dolendi, / dum stet opus causae, 115-16). (35) But this is not the case. Etna is not a manifest and proximate proof of itself (177), but the magnum opus of a Nature that is sometimes a deity, sometimes a craftsman, sometimes a nature-machine, (36) and whose dramatic spectacles overwhelm the spectator's power to articulate or even perceive them consistently. The proper limits of viewing are also a matter for debate: the wonders of the volcanic spectacle are a constant of the poem, (37) but the poet also claims that custodial fire shuts off the approach to Etna's inmost working so that the divine care that is responsible for it may be without a witness (193-96). A line whose place in the text is disputed adds: "so that its appearance may be the more imposing" (ut maior species). (38)

Aetna dispenses with the I/you relationship of poet and addressee customary in poems of this kind. (39) The poem does not pretend to advise another person, and dramatic fissures in its enactment of certainty emerge from its characterization of Nature as dramatist and dramaturge. The poetic consciousness is an impressionable witness of Nature's spectacles, and the poem enacts the plasticity of cognition in response to them. What little instruction it contains points to the inability of knowledge to determine cognition. The poem devotes most of its attention to lava stone, but copper, lead, iron, and gold all have human agency briefly attributed to them, along with the as yet undiscovered minerals beneath the earth that are bound by a like dispensation (similique obnoxia sorti, 542-47). We stand on the threshold of a theatrical materialism, or theater of matter, from which we would never awaken.


The Aetna poet's major poetological claim is that what makes Etna the kind of thing it is also is what makes his poem the way it is (24-28):
fortius ignotas molimur pectore curas:
qui tanto motus opera, quae tanta perenni
explicet in densum flammas et trudat ab imo
ingenti sonitu moles et proxima quaeque
ignibus irriguis urat, mens carminis haec est.

Resolutely we advance unknown concerns in our heart: what force the
works so greatly, what with such eternal... manifests flames in
thick... and thrusts up masses from the depths and burns whatever is
nearby with liquid flames, this is the mind of the song. (40)

At the outset, the poet had claimed identity between his poem and its subject: "Etna will be my song" (1-4). He now finesses this claim by asserting an identity between poem and mountain in terms of mentation: mens carminis haec est. Aetna thinks like the mountain, and this is what distinguishes it from the fallacia vatum. (41) But we now know what the dangers of co-mentation are: Aetna realizes the loss of mastery over phenomenal experience that is the subjective equivalent of the Titans' threat to the cosmic order. Instead of thinking the mountain, the observer is thought by it.

Pindar seems to be shuddering at a straw bogeyman when he imagines this possibility in Pythian 1, but in Aetna the undoing of object relations that plunges the human subject back into its childhood terrors is writ large in the poem's two Jupiters. The first Jupiter quails at the Giants' assault but asserts his mastery with thunderbolts and with the help of the Olympian league; he imprisons the dying Enceladus under Etna where he impudently breathes forth fire from his jaws (41-73). We may wonder about the Aetna poet's motives in regaling us with this "impious fable," but it is at least bracketed custodially in the untrue tales section of the introduction. It is all the more surprising therefore that the fearful Jupiter returns in a scientific section of the poem that deals with the causes of Etna's eruptions. This second Jupiter "looks in wonder at the fires from afar" and "trembles silently in his secret place," lest "new Giants arise again in buried war" (203-4). It is the rocks and fires of Etna alone that produce this fear in the god, who experiences the same incapacity to reduce phenomenal experience to knowledge as the human observer of the lava stone conflagration. (42)

Schelling, in The Philosophy of Art, sees "the restrictedness of the object" in Hellenistic didactic poetry, as opposed to the totalizing ambitions of Empedocles and Lucretius (Schelling 1989, 224 = Schelling 1856, V.663-64), as a gateway to what Snell calls the "post-philosophical" in Hellenistic poetry: its having "ceased to believe in the possibility of mastering the world by a theoretical control" (Snell 1953, 266-67). In eschewing epistemic wholes for discrete bodies of knowledge, Hellenistic didactic poetry undoes the epic consciousness of the Homeric poems which maintains a constant distance from the objects of the poem, no matter what they are, by staging the capacity of the human observer to be undone by the project of knowledge. The more closely the human observer engages with discrete objects of knowledge, the more forcefully these objects rise up against him, invested with human agency. (43)

Etna is what "chafes at governance" (quid fremat imperium, 3), and it is as such that it becomes the poem Aetna. Denys Page remarked that a suitable motto for any study of Aetna could be taken from the poem itself: chaos ac sine fine ruina (139). (44) Another suitable motto occurs shortly thereafter: Aetna sui manifesta fides (177). Aetna is a memorial to its own ambitions. Like a lyric poem whose form testifies to the unbounded cathexis in which it originates but cannot contain, (45) its ruined state is the material witness to a poetic consciousness that approached too closely to the object of its desire. The poem that wanted to be Etna is a self-consumed artifact. And it is in this self-consumption that we see the fate of vibrant materialism more generally, for the more vibrant materialism becomes, the more it manifests itself as phenomenalization. And the more it manifests itself as phenomenalization, the less purchase it has on us as an account of materiality and appears instead as a pathology of subjectivity. Whereas epic can give objects their due because epic consciousness maintains a constant distance from its objects, phenomenalization is the natural form of lyric subjectivity. It is inherently, and ineluctably first personal in its possession by the world.

The more intense the vibrancy of vibrant matter, the more likely this vibrancy will be apprehended as the experience of the subject of phenomenalization, and not as the activity of an object. It is the low intensity of the human entanglement with objects in the Homeric poems which makes these objects as palpable and as present as they are, whereas in Aetna, in its moments of greatest intensity, we are inside the empire of the Titans, to the extent that the very possibility of our registering an object as such in a subject's self-distantiation from it has all but disappeared. In realizing its poetology, the poet has destroyed his poem and himself, but, as Horace observes of Empedocles in the Ars poetica, poets may choose to perish, and saving one against his will is the same as killing him (Ars P. 466-67). (46)

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(1.) The currency of this characterization of Kant's epistemology is due to Meillassoux 2008, although the term is already employed critically in this sense in the account of the suspension of the correlation in the phenomenon of givenness in Marion 2002.

(2.) Purves 2015, 93: "What both Snell and Auerbach saw as a limitation, the 'not there yet-ness' of Homeric style, New Materialism finds to be always ([phrase omitted]) evident everywhere if we only knew how to look." Holmes (2015, in the same volume) offers an equally compelling reading of Scamander in the Iliad as a figure of Donna Haraway's natureculture. Holmes's reading engages with the life/matter distinction from the life side of the binary and so raises a different set of questions about the life regimes of ancient poetry that lie outside the scope of this paper. On new materialism's troubling of the life/matter binary, see Bennett 2010, xvii-xviii, 53, 89-92.

(3.) See AmbAaAaAeA hl 2007 for a thorough account of the influence of Schiller essay.

(4.) Schiller 1998, 193: "Recall the beauty of nature surrounding the ancient Greeks [Wenn man sich der schAaAaAeA nen Natur erinnert, welche d alten Griechen umgab].... Consider how confidently this people was able, under its serendipitous sky, to live with free nature [mit der freien Natur leben konnte]; consider how very much nearer to the simplicity of nature lay its manner of thinking, its way of thinking, its mores, and what a faithful copy of this is provided by the works of its poets." Translation slightly adapted.

(5.) Fichte 2005, 209. Cf. Darwall 2006, 254-56 on the "normative felicity conditions" of second-person address: "There are two assumptions that any attempt to address someone second-personally is committed to making. The first is that the addresser and the addressee share an equal authority to make claims of one another as free and rational. And the second is that they share a freedom to act on claims that are rooted in this authority."

(6.) Cole (2013, 107-8) cites this passage in his critique of the claims on the part of various forms of new materialism to speak for objects, although his reading of Fichte, which suggests that he is 'playing games' with his readers, leading them to toy with the idea that what is capable of Aufforderung might be a thing, rather than a rational subject like ourselves, is perhaps too charitable in its efforts to accommodate the targets of his criticism to Fichte's project.

(7.) Schiller gets rather short shrift in the long history of the struggle to overcome

Kant's subjectivism as retraced in Beiser 2002, although see Beiser 394-95 on HAaAaAeA lderlin's project for a polemical response to Schiller epistemology of aesthetic ideas in a treatise to be entitled Neue Briefe AaAaAeA ber die AaAaAeAasthetische Erziehung des Mensc

(8.) It would need an Anglo-Saxon poem to render it adequately--"in deep pontic plain / it bears its barrage"--although there, of course, the alliteration would be regular.

(9.) In Pythian 12, Pindar speaks of Athena weaving the "wretched dirge" of the dying Gorgons into music, but he makes no attempt to sound out the goddess's hearing. For the sound of things outside the victory odes, see Porter 2007.

(10.) See Glauthier 201 I, 91-92 and Hunter 2012, 177-78.

I I. I use the text of Goodyear 1965, with an eye to those of Sudhaus 1898 and Ellis 2008 [1901], There are no major differences in the text of the proem in these three editions, other than Ellis's adoption of Munro's Ladonis for Dodone, which Goodyear convincingly refutes. All translations from ancient sources are my own.

(12.) Goodyear 1965, 99-100, who sees the exotic place names as the primary marker of Alexandrianism.

(13.) Sudhaus 1898, 44; cf. Goodyear 1984, 347.

(14.) Toohey (1996, 189) argues that the reason the Aetna poet has chosen to write about volcanoes is because "volcanoes, as Lucretius describes them, were liable, because of their singular and terrifying characteristics, to cause people to attribute their activities to the gods." Effe (1977, 206-9), by contrast, sees the poet articulating a natural wonder conducive to true religion in contrast to the Epicurean "Gelassenheit" of Lucretius. I suggest that we take the poet at his word and that originalitv, pure and simple, is what prompts his choice of topic. As Glauthier (2011, 99-100) observes, there is second-generation neoteric humor in invoking the untrodden path and the childhood of the master when Etna had long since been a poetic set piece; cf. Leroux 2004, 77-8 who tabulates the passages in Latin epic. The Aetna poet's novelty will appear in the particular form of his engagement with the volcanic matter of his poem.

(15.) On the Aitia as didactic poetry, see Harder 2012, 1.27-30.

(16.) On the poem's sources, see Sudhaus 1898, 71-80; Ellis 2008 [1901], xc-xcv; Goodyear 1965, 54-56 and 1984, 346-56.

(17.) De Vivo (1985, 261) calls it a "poemetto."

(18.) Goodyear 1965, 99.

(19.) Volk 2005, 82: "Unser Lehrgedicht enthAaAaAeAnlt also vergleichswei viel Dichtung, aber wenig Lehre."

(20.) Effe (1974, 66) argues that the elaborate and non-intuitive arrangement of the material is an aggressive aesthetization of Nicander's prose sources, in keeping with their being recast in verse and epic diction. Effe (1977, 63) formulates the goal of this kind of didactic poetry as "nicht das docere, sondern das delectare," and Touwaide (1991, 91) likewise claims that Nicander's poems utilize the appearance of popular works with a mnemotechnical function to avail themselves of an additional facet of style. Cf. Jacques 2002, lxviii, Ixxxvi, cxv on the poeticity of Nicander's "radical didactic poetry" with respect to its sources, and the poet's ambition to confound contemporary readers whose taste was limited to the classics with the "reality poetry" of the Theriaca.

(21.) Davies (1987, 71 ) shows how primitive and widespread stories of humankind's loss of immortality are, and, conversely, how small a part they play in early Greek literature: absent entirely from Homer, naAaAaAeA ve old folk tales of this sort are a special preserve of Hellenist poetry.

(22.) Sudhaus (1898, 76-77) lines up passages from the Aetna with passages from Book 6 of Seneca's Natural Questions as part of his argument that both depend on Posidonius.

(23.) De Lacy 1943.

(24.) Lassandro 1993 and Taub 2008, 48 ("science for science's sake"), reiterated in Taub 2009, 131.

(25.) Effe 1977, 210-13; cf. Volk 2005, 81, 89.

(26.) Goodyear 1984, 347-55.

(27.) Volk (2005, 80) considers the doubling of Aeneas and Anchises as a quantitative overcoming, rather than a parody, of the Virgilian model.

(28.) Rather than demonstrating how myth can be made to serve the description of divine realities, as Effe (1977, 213) argues. Cf. De Vivo 1985, 259 who argues for the "autonomy" of the scientific sections as part of the project of variety outlined by the programmatic prooemium.

(29.) Snell 1953, 266-67: "The Hellenistic poets are, if we may say it in one word, post-philosophical, while the earlier poets are pre-philosophical. The earlier poetry is ever intent to stake out new areas of the mind, and philosophy and science, the rational assimilation of the newly-formed material, formed its natural sequel... These poets are post-philosophical in the sense that they have ceased to believe in the possibility of mastering the world by a theoretical control."

(30.) For example, it is because its author is a true poeta doctus that he can say caeruleo siccus love fulgeat aether, and follow it up, a few lines later, with a moment of supreme intellectual and stylistic bathos. When a cloud hangs over Etna, the mountain does not see it: non illam videt Aetna (332-37). Goodyear (1965, 164) emends videt to ciet, on the grounds that "the absurdity of videt... needs no demonstration," which may indeed be so, but ciet does little to rescue the line from naivety.

(31.) On the Homericism of the Theriaca, see Touwaide 1991, 79-82; on the Oedipal horses and Iliadic goats of the Cynegetica, see Payne 2010, 132-36.

(32.) Cf. Sudhaus 1898, 79: "[phrase omitted], der Stein wird ihm zum lebenden Wesen." Cf. Garani 2009, 108-11 on the personification of winds in the poem.

(33.) Ellis (2008 [1901], 175) proposed the "Lucretian" emendation, bruta est illi patientia victo, which Goodyear (1965, 176) calls an "absurdity," but which is better understood as an over-correction in the direction of the target of the personification.

(34.) At least in some editions. Goodyear (1965, 185) claims the text of Ellis is incomprehensible.

(35.) Goodyear (1965, 129) adopts Gorallus's causa docenda: "Dolendi seems very strange... and the pointless repetition causa... causae with two different senses is hard to stomach." It is certainly strange, but the repetition has a Callimachean feel; cf. AmbAaAaAeA hl 2004, 24: "Somewh surprisingly, in view of the dominating Hellenistic concept of variatio or [phrase omitted], the stylistic device of repetition manifests itself quite often in Callimachus's works... in the repetition of single words," with the proviso in Harder 2012, 1.44 that repetition of single words is quite rare in the Aetia. Elsewhere in Callimachus, however, such repetitions are often a form of studied naivety, an

important component of Hellenistic poikilia, as argued above, as the examples at Aetia, fr. 1.33 and fr. 25e.1, may also be. Cf. Glauthier 2011, 103 note 38: "Although dolendi gives good sense ('there is no cause here for grief), it involves taking causa in 116 and 117 in two different senses ('motive, reason' vs. 'natural philosophical cause, rational principle'). The awkwardness is not impossible, and dolendi may be right."

(36.) All three possibilities are advanced in quick succession in 180-97. An organicized Etna, "teeming with occult fire" (557), is described as a giant bellows in what follows. Etna is also compared to a water organ at 293-300, on which see Garani 2009, 112-15 and Glauthier 2011, 108-12.

(37.) Cf. Effe 1977, 206-10 on the "Schauspiel der Natur," and the poet's emotional response to it, and Sudhaus 1898, 79 on the warmth and excitement that characterize the description of the lava stone in particular. Volk (2005, 80) observes that the poet oscillates between sober researcher and passionate Nature enthusiast. We should also heed the poem's own warning about theater: plurima pars scaenae rerum est fallacia (76).

(38.) Cf. Ellis 2008 [1901], 113: "The god's care for creation is without witness, in order to heighten the effect of the show."

(39.) Goodyear 1981, 345 note 3. Volk (2005, 82-83 note 39) points out that while the addressee of a didactic poem is usually named, a name is not essential, since the student figure is a subject position of the genre's mode of address that may be replicated by an anonymous SchAaAaAeA lergestalt, what Volk elsewhere refers to as the "teacher-stude constellation." As Cusset (2006, 9-10) observes, however, the student/teacher scenario is just a way of writing: it is not the index of an intention to instruct but a promise to open up new areas of aesthetic experience.

(40.) Goodyear 1965, 110: "Sudhaus's explanation (100) of explicet in densum is good... but he does not produce a satisfactory parallel for the expression... If, however, there is a lacuna, we must suspend judgement on explicet in densum, the difficulties of which might vanish if we knew what was missing."

(41.) Sudhaus 1898, 101: "Mens und pectus, mit bewusster Bezugnahme auf einander an dem Anfang und Schluss dieser Verse gestellt, schildern klar und warm das VerhAaAaAeAnltnis des Dichters zu seinem Stoff. Und w der Anfangsverse gegen die iactatae fahulae retrospectiv contrastirt, so markirt mens im letzten Verse den Gegensatz gegen die folgende fallacia vatum."

(42.) Glauthier (2011, 120-21) compares the two Jupiters and observes: "The Jupiter of 199 to 207 seems helpless and aloof. His understanding of the explosion does not operate within the poet's theoretical framework and he himself constitutes a troubling image of the would-be scientist." The recourse to irony to explain the second Jupiter in Effe 1977, 211-12 is, as Glauthier suggests, an indication of how corrosive this passage is for scientistic and pietist readings of the poem: not only has impious myth escaped its containment zone, but its presence outside it threatens the epistemic regime that confined it there in the first place.

(43.) Glauthier (2011, 90, 127) rightly resists attempts to explain away the tension between natural science and poetry in Aetna, but the form of their relationship by the end of the poem is not mutual limitation and interdependence but the consumption of the one by the other; phenomenal poeticity has overwhelmed theoretical understanding.

(44.) Cited in Goodyear 1984, 345.

(45.) On didactic poetry as a lyrical inflection of epic, insofar as it bends away from objective epic knowledge, to subjective lyric knowing, see Schelling 1989, 226 (= Schelling 1856, V.667) and the discussion in Payne 2014.

(46.) Invitum qui servat idem facit occidenti: Horace's only example of that Hellenistic mannerism, the spondaic hexameter; see Duckworth 1965, 74.

This paper grew out of a panel on "The Ancient Nonhuman" that I co-organized with Brooke Holmes for the meeting of the Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts in 2012. I am grateful to Brooke, and to the other participants, Alex Purves and Emma Bianchi, both for their comments at the panel itself, and for the many conversations that have continued thereafter. My thinking owes a great deal to all of them.

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