Monday, March 29, 2010

Book Review: Poems in Context

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by David Hernández de la Fuente)

Laura Miguélez Cavero, Poems in Context: Greek Poetry in the Egyptian Thebaid 200-600 AD. Sozomena. Studies in the Recovery of Ancient Texts 2. Berlin/New York: W. De Gruyter, 2008.

A panoramic study of Greek Epic in Late Antique Egypt, such as this recent book by Dr Laura Miguélez Cavero, published as a result of her 2006 PhD dissertation at the University of Salamanca, was much needed in this field of research. Greek Poetry in the Egyptian Thebaid, as the title goes,--or, rather, epic, since lyric or drama are let aside--is a very valuable piece of scholarship, as we shall point out in the following lines.

First of all, let us summarize the contents of the present volume. Poems in Context is divided into 5 chapters, the first one providing an analysis of "The so-called school of Nonnus in the literary context of Panopolis (3rd-6th c. AD)" and of some of the main figures of this long period of time (the family of Fl. Horapollon, Cyrus, Olympiodorus, Nonnus and Musaeus). Miguélez Cavero argues for the non-existence of a "School of Nonnus" or something similar explaining this Egyptian "poetic flourishing" ("that would force into a category a certain number of poets whose purpose surely was not to create a group", p. 5). She also emphasizes the idea that the most important work of this period, the Dionysiaca, "did not emerge in a thematic vacuum" (p.22). Both ideas are important and thoroughly discussed in the book and we shall go back to them.

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