Horace's Odes have a surface translucency that belies their rhetorical sophistication. Gregson Davis brings together recent trends in the study of Augustan poetry and critical theory and deftly applies them to individual poems. Exploring four rhetorical strategies—what he calls modes of assimilation, authentication, consolation, and praise and dispraise—Davis produces enlightening, new interpretations of this classic work.
Polyhymnia, named after one of the Muses invoked in Horace's opening poem, revises the common image of Horace as a complacent, uncomplicated, and basically superficial singer. Focusing on the artistic persona—the lyric "self" that is constituted in the text—Davis explores how the lyric speaker constructs subtle "arguments" whose building-blocks are topoi, recurrent motifs, and generic conventions. By examining the substructure of lyric argument in groupings of poems sharing similar strategies, the author discloses the major principles that inform Horatian lyric composition.
Gregson Davis is Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at Cornell University.
"Succinct and elegantly written, firmly grounded in sound philology, open to contemporary critical approaches, and rigorous in the application of its own methodology, this study should impress even the most traditional of classicists."—Matthew Santirocco, author of Unity and Design in Horace's Odes
"Beautifully written. . . . Davis' way of framing the issues is likely to be influential for years to come."—Thomas Habinek, University of California, Berkeley