COLLOQUIUM: Christopher van den Berg, Amherst College, "Intertextuality, Metaprose, and Program in Pseudo-Quintilian DM XIII"

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 4:30pm to 6:00pm

402 Cohen Hall 

Pseudo-Quintilian’s 13th Major Declamation draws on a range of ancient authorities on bees and beekeeping, and scholars have assiduously documented the work’s predecessors in both poetry and prose. This paper takes a broader approach to the declaimer’s reuse of cultural precedents by analyzing the strategies through which he fashions the text as an object of learned consumption. By repeatedly underscoring the speech’s structural design, the speaker likens the declamation to the design of the beehive he praises, emphasizing along the way the bookish culture which underlies both the world of the bees and the world of declamation. This learned environment is not merely a haphazard assembly of erudite passages but rather a programmatic assertion of declamation’s cultural value. At a broader level, this paper considers the place of declamation within the literary culture of the Roman Empire, arguing that Pseudo-Quintilian’s fascinating text exemplifies both the efflorescence of imperial rhetoric and the developing sense of prose literature of the period. It examines ideas about cultural decline and continuity and considers how skilled techniques of textual reuse (intertextuality) and authorial self-awareness (metaprose) are central elements of imperial prose.