Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)
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 West’s combination of technology and myth. Additionally, Post-Colonial critics have pointed out that the horrors of this war were also perpetrated throughout Europe’s 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 Plato’s vision, showing how a people is formed through their culture and given their destiny. Plato and Heidegger’s 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 Virgil’s 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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Russell, Jesse Bryan Burchfield, "Virgil's shipwreck: how a Roman poet made and unmade the epic in the west" (2012). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 2960.