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The Roman Self in Late Antiquity

, 272 pages
December 2007


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The Roman Self in Late Antiquity

Prudentius and the Poetics of the Soul

The Roman Self in Late Antiquity for the first time situates Prudentius within a broad intellectual, political, and literary context of fourth-century Rome. As Marc Mastrangelo convincingly demonstrates, the late-fourth-century poet drew on both pagan and Christian intellectual traditions—especially Platonism, Vergilian epic poetics, and biblical exegesis—to define a new vision of the self for the newly Christian Roman Empire.

Mastrangelo proposes an original theory of Prudentius's allegorical poetry and establishes Prudentius as a successor to Vergil. Employing recent approaches to typology and biblical exegesis as well as the most current theories of allusion and intertextuality in Latin poetry, he interprets the meaning and influence of Prudentius's work and positions the poet as a vital author for the transmission of the classical tradition to the early modern period.

This provocative study challenges the view that poetry in the fourth century played a subordinate role to patristic prose in forging Christian Roman identity. It seeks to restore poetry to its rightful place as a crucial source for interpreting the rich cultural and intellectual life of the era.

Marc Mastrangelo is an associate professor of classical studies at Dickinson College.

"A cogent, masterful account of Prudentius's work. This book will make a welcome addition to the list of late antique and early Christian literary readings, expanding beyond Prudentius to engage larger questions of early Christian reading. It will also stand alongside works on the epic tradition, such as Hardie's, while contributing a clarifying view of Augustine's sources and predecessors."

"This book persuasively re-evaluates Prudentius as a poet who effectively reshaped the reader’s awareness of Christian self in relation to the wider Christian community... Students of Late Antiquity will find much of interest in this study of an ambitious poet."

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