K. Spanoudakis (ed.), Nonnus of Panopolis in Context. Poetry and Cultural Milieu in Late Antiquity with a Section on Nonnus and the Modern World.
The volume under review is the fruit of a conference on Nonnus of Panopolis, held in Rethymno, Crete, in May 2011. This was the first in what looks set to become a series of international conferences on the most important Greek Late Antique poet. Nonnus had languished in obscurity for far too long, with both classical Hellenists and Byzantinists regarding him as not one of "their own", as the editor well puts it in the Preface. That situation is starting to change, with the emergence of Late Antiquity as an increasingly popular area of research within classical Literary Studies. This volume, running to more than 500 pages and comprising 24 articles in total, is a testimony to the vitality of Nonnian studies and the variety of approaches Nonnus and his poems are beginning to attract.
The volume opens with an article by one of the great masters of Nonnian studies, Pierre Chuvin, who shows that the Dionysiaca is not a poem of true Dionysiac religiosity; the epic provides solace through hope, and not salvation per se. Next, Katerina Carvounis analyses speeches from the episode of Cadmus and Harmonia, comparing them to both their epic models (chiefly Apollonius of Rhodes) and the instructions appearing in rhetorical handbooks. This article also includes a useful overview of the role of Peitho as a character in the Dionysiaca. Jane Lightfoot's contribution looks at oracles and cosmic consultation scenes in the Dionysiaca, and develops into a brief, but insightful, study of prolepsis--ubiquitous in this poem. Enrico Livrea argues against Vian's dating of the Orphic Argonautica as later than Nonnus; he instead proposes a date in the second half of the fourth century, and examines a number of passages where the phrasing of the Orphic Argonautica is reminiscent of the Dionysiaca, suggesting other models from the epic or the Orphic tradition, from which both poems could have drawn. The Orphic thread is maintained in the following article, by Marta Otlewska-Jung, who compares the hymnic sections of the Dionysiaca to the Orphic Hymns, suggesting Nonnus' knowledge of this (or a very similar) collection, and goes on to examine first the myth of Zagreus under the light of Orphic theogonies and then the appearances Orpheus himself makes in the Dionysiaca. Next, Michael Paschalis contrasts Ovid's permanent, single metamorphoses to Nonnus' predilection for shape-shifting (Proteus, Dionysus, and Io all go through multiple metamorphoses). Paschalis then elaborates on the connections between Nonnus' Actaeon and Pentheus, focusing on the importance Nonnus' poikilon eidos has for these two characters. Maria Ypsilanti studies descriptions of darkness and light in the Paraphrase, showing how Nonnus adapts astral imagery and the motif of the brilliant tunic for his Christian poem. Ypsilanti also demonstrates that Nonnus was the first author to use the (astronomical) idea of the "cone of darkness" in poetic diction.
The following two articles explore Nonnus' indebtedness to his contemporary visual arts. Gianfranco Agosti's excellent contribution suggests that several Nonnian scenes reflect real-life contemporary experiences, known to us from visual arts (e.g. acrobatic spectacles involving children). The generic representation of cities in contemporary iconography is brought to bear on Nonnus' vaguely delineated Indian city, while Nonnus' reticence in describing statues (as well as Aura's vindictive destruction of Aphrodites statue) is attributed to iconoclastic practices familiar to the poet and his audience. Finally, Agosti reaches the same conclusions as Chuvin (in this volume) regarding the literariness of the Dionysiaca and its lack of any "salvific vision of Dionysism" (p. 166), by identifying in the healing of the blind Indian in 25.281-91 a pantomimic scene, which, the author argues, is represented on a diptych of the consul Anastasios. In the second article of this section, Laura Miguelez-Cavero studies the personifications which cluster around Dionysus, as symbols of his characteristics and powers. In this article as well, Nonnus' lack of emphasis on the mystic or ritual aspects of Dionysism is brought out, as the author argues that the episode of Mystis is meant to "make up for" the absence of mysticism in the poem (p. 185).
The section on "Nonnus and Late Antique Paideia" opens with an article which perhaps would have been better placed in the following section, on "Nonnus and Christianity": in this, Andrew Faulkner compares the translational methods of Nonnus' Paraphrase and the anonymous Metaphrasis of the Psalms. Focusing on the prologue of the Metaphrasis and its emphasis upon divine inspiration, Faulkner argues that the poet's professed humility is only a pose and that his aim was "to provide an aesthetically pleasing poetic version of the Psalms" (p. 209); his project should, thus, not be sharply distinguished from that of Nonnus' Paraphrase. Next, Rosa Garcia-Gasco takes a look at Mystis as an allegorical figure, embodying the rites of Dionysus, which Nonnus would have known from literary and iconographical sources, and not, apparently, from direct experience. David Hernandez de la Fuente, then, argues that Nonnus' poetics is influenced by Neoplatonic aesthetics in three main aspects: the metaphysical progression from the One to the Many through imitation and reflection, the circular shape and motion of the universe, and prophecy as a sign of the sensible world's divine unity. The following article, by Nicole Kroll, takes the episode of Ampelus as a case study of how Nonnus employs and modifies rhetorical techniques he would have learned as part of his education. The last one in this section, Enrico Magnelli's study focuses on Nonnus' use of appositives in his hexameter, and especially his attitude towards Meyer's First Law and Hermann's Bridge.
The section "Nonnus and Christianity" includes some of the most original and engaging articles in the volume. In the first one, Filip Doroszewski analyses Dionysiac vocabulary and imagery in the Paraphrase, convincingly arguing that Bacchic frenzy is used, on the one hand, as a metaphor for approaching God, and on the other, when applied to Judaic festivities, to evoke noisiness, animal sacrifice, and reprehensible mysticism. In the second article, Claudia Greco reads the description of cities and nature in Par. 12.51-69 (Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem) under the light of contemporary Christological debates, and shows that Nonnus is aware of the patristic interpretation of Old Testament quotations. Next, Robert Shorrock takes us through Nonnus' Ariadne episode, considering at the same time Late Antique mosaics on the same theme, and demonstrating that the reader's pleasure at reading the text is channelled through the figure of a voyeuristic Dionysus. The argument for a Christian reading here relies on the appearance of a double dative at 47.418 and the adjective aypavxoio at 47.415, even though, as the author admits, "Ariadne's disappointment at her continued state of virginity represents a striking inversion of conventional models of Christian discourse" (p. 330). In the fourth article in this section, the editor of the volume provides an allegorical reading of Dionysus' shield as a symbol of (Christian) redemption. In the central scene, that of Tylus and the snake, the evil serpent attacking Tylus (who stands in for the entire human race) represents sin (and especially adultery), the good Giant Damasen symbolises Christ, and the tree with which the evil serpent is killed symbolises the cross. The following scene, the ktisis of Thebes, is read as an allegory for the creation of the world, while the representation of Zeus and Ganymede on the shield is seen as a symbol of spiritual immortalisation. The final scene, where Cronus devours and then vomits up his children, is interpreted by Spanoudakis as an allegory of eschatological resurrection.
The penultimate section of the volume focuses on the so-called "School" of Nonnus, beginning with a study, by Claudio De Stefani, on the disappearance of "Nonnian" hexameter poetry (as well as secular literature in general) in the seventh century. Daria Gigli Piccardi provides a brief overview of Platonic and Neoplatonic ideas on poetic inspiration, before looking, in more detail, at John of Gaza's proems to the Tabula mundi and the way these express the power of inspiration through a violent imagery of biting, sea storms, dance, inebriety and general Bacchic frenzy. Next, Delphine Lauritzen studies John of Gaza's reception of Nonnus in terms of metre and vocabulary (with an emphasis on John's own neologisms and those he borrows from Nonnus), while noting the striking difference in theme between Nonnus' epics and John's ekphrasis on allegorical personifications. In the final paper in this section, Mary Whitby offers an insightful interpretation of George of Pisidias On Human Life, a seventh century hexameter poem, "as a reflection on spiritual self-discipline" (p. 454), and points out its allusions to poets such as Homer, Hesiod, Gregory of Nazianzus, Nonnus, and, impressively, Paul the Silentiary, whom George deliberately "corrects" (pp. 445-7), as Whitby convincingly suggests.
The volume ends with a section on Nonnus and the modern world, including two articles: one by Domenico Accorinti on Simone Weil as a reader of the Dionysiaca and an analysis of the Dionysiaca, by Nina Aringer, on the basis of the Jungian archetypes and the monomyth of Joseph Campbell. Three useful Indices (General, of Passages, and of Greek words or phrases) complete the volume, which is admirably free of errors or typos, especially for such a voluminous book. I noticed very few errors, none of which prevents comprehension (one typo on p. 165 "of after" instead of "or after"; on p. 188 Il. 8.130-40 is cited in connection to the myth of Ambrosia but does not say anything relevant for that myth; on p. 213: the translation of Dion. 9.111-31, cited in Greek, inexplicably stops at v. 128, while, conversely on p. 226 the translation covers more text than that quoted in Greek). All in all, this collection of studies on Nonnus of Panopolis, the first to be published in English since Neil Hopkinson's in 1994, represents a major step towards bringing Nonnus into the mainstream of classical Literary Studies, as it both provides an overview of the field as it stands to-date, and points towards the many and interesting lines of research that remain to be explored in the future.
Centro de Estudos Classicos--U. Lisboa
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|Title Annotation:||texto en ingles|
|Publication:||Euphrosyne. Revista de Filologia Classica|
|Article Type:||Resena de libro|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2015|
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