Tuesday, July 20, 2010


Version at BMCR home site
Michèle Lowrie (ed.), Horace: Odes and Epodes. Oxford Readings in Classical Studies. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Pp. viii, 472. ISBN 9780199207701. $75.00 (pb).
Reviewed by Victoria Moul, Faculty of Classics, Cambridge

[Authors and titles are listed at the end of the review.]

Michèle Lowrie's selection of nineteen papers on Horace's Odes and Epodes—all previously published—joins a now extensive library of 'Oxford Readings'. (The companion volume on the Satires and Epistles, edited by Kirk Freudenburg, was also published last year.) Lowrie's volume is a success—each of these papers deserves re-reading, and the book as a whole manages to introduce both the key themes in the scholarship (such as intertextuality, form and the politics of address) and the interpretative debates surrounding them.

This sense of an engagement in critical debate is created partly by some well-judged overlaps and juxtapositions, and partly by the brief introduction. Confining herself to a modest ten pages, Lowrie avoids lengthy summarising of each chapter—too often a trying feature of such introductions—and instead offers an overview, with full references, of how the selected readings fit into the patterns of recent scholarship more widely. This is a productive approach—despite its brevity, the piece is an admirable introduction to the study of Horatian lyric and an excellent resource for anyone attempting to compile a reading list or course bibliography.

Some volumes in this series have been criticised for excessive conservatism, or for adding little to resources already easily available. Lowrie's collection withstands these criticisms well: although the most recent article included is now ten years old, eight date from the nineties, and four from the eighties. The range of critical approaches certainly feels up to date, and Lowrie's own introduction works well to place the work in the context of earlier scholarship. In addition, seven of the nineteen articles printed here have been translated for the volume—three from German, three from Italian and one from French. This is a high proportion compared to some other volumes in the series, and it adds considerable depth.

The usefulness of the book for an advanced undergraduate or graduate student coming to most of this material for the first time is obvious—a handy and relatively affordable compendium of recent work on Horatian lyric, intelligently introduced and with an invaluable bibliography. The Horatian specialist, however, or indeed anyone who teaches the Odes regularly, is likely to have read all of these articles before, and most of them probably more than once. What, then, does this collection offer the well-informed re-reader?

One major attraction of the volume is its suggestive overlaps and juxtapositions. Editors of volumes of this kind must decide whether they aim primarily to represent the field, by including a wide range of influential articles of various types, possibly at the cost of relatively little detailed interaction; or rather to offer a more tightly defined selection with a clearer critical agenda, but at risk of seeming unrepresentative. Lowrie has done well to avoid either extreme. There is real range here—compare for instance Du Quesnay's 'rigorously historicizing' account of Odes 4.5 (Chapter 14, the description is Lowrie's own, from p. 6) with the piece that immediately precedes it, Don Fowler's elegant, provocative and even-handed account of the impossibility of Horatian panegyric ('Horace and the Aesthetics of Politics', Chapter 13). Similarly, several poems or groups of poems attract detailed attention in more than one chapter and under different headings—for instance, the odes addressed to Maecenas, which are discussed by Mario Citroni ('Occasion and Levels of Address in Horatian Lyric', Chapter 5) and again by Matthew S. Santirocco in 'The Maecenas Odes' (Chapter 6). Similar points can be made about the links between Horace and Catullus, and, more specifically, about Odes 1.24 and Epodes 17, both of which receive detailed commentary in more than one chapter, and from more than one interpretative angle. At several points, I found my appreciation of a familiar article sharpened by the conversation created with another piece.

Unsurprisingly, the articles reprinted here reflect recent trends in scholarship by omission as well as inclusion: Canidia is fashionable, Odes 4 is not. (Although individual odes from the fourth book are discussed, and 4.5 gets its own chapter, as noted above, I missed any substantial discussion of the book as a collection). A few omissions I found, on reflection, quite striking: one was the relative lack of material linking Horatian lyric with the hexameter poetry. This may stem in part from an awareness of a separate volume in the same series on the Satires and Epistles, but it suggests that many Horatian scholars continue to define their work as one or the other. Secondly, there was almost nothing here on the religious elements of Horace's lyric, beyond the odd brief summary of hymnic address; although one thing one notices when teaching the Odes as a whole is the frequency of hymns, or poems that are close to hymns, and the difficulty of expounding them in a meaningful way to undergraduates. What for instance is the relationship of the hymn to the contest between higher and lower genres? or to the poetics of place and time, as sketched by Denis Feeney in Chapter 11 ('Horace and the Greek Lyric Poets')? or to the political and aesthetic allegiances of Horatian lyric, as mapped out so effectively by Fowler in Chapter 13?

That the volume under review raises these questions is to its credit: it is because Lowrie's book convinces as a survey of key criticism that one feels confident enough to use it as a guide to where research might go next. Anyone planning a course on Horace, or planning to attend one, will be grateful for her work; and specialists, too, will want to have a copy on their shelf.

The quality of the book is good and I found only a scattering of typographical errors.

Table of contents:

Introduction, Michele Lowrie
1. The Horatian Ode, Richard Heinze
2. The Function of Wine in Horace's Odes, Steele Commager
3. 'Slender Genre' and 'Slender Table' in Horace, H. J. Mette
4. How to End an Ode?, P. H. Schrijvers
5. Occasion and Levels of Address in Horatian Lyric , Mario Citroni
6. The Maecenas Odes, Matthew Santirocco
7. Horace's Century Poem - A Processional Song?, P. L. Schmidt
8. Power and Impotence in Horace's Epodes, William Fitzgerald
9. Canidia, Canicula, and the Decorum of Horace's Epodes, Ellen Oliensis
10. The Languages of Horace Odes 1.24, Michael C. J. Putnam
11. Horace and the Greek Lyric Poets, Denis Feeney
12. Final Difficulties in the Career of an Iambic Poet: Epode 17, Alessandro Barchiesi
13. Horace and the Aesthetics of Politics, Don Fowler
14. Horace, Odes 4.5: Pro Reditu Imperatoris Caesari Divi Filii Augusti, I. M. Le M. Du Quesnay
15. A Parade of Lyric Predecessors: Horace C. 1.12-18, Michele Lowrie
16. Horace, a Greek Lyrist without Music, Luigi Rossi
17. The Word Order of the Odes, R. G. M. Nisbet
18. Horace Talks Rough and Dirty: No Comment (Epodes 8 & 12), John Henderson
19. Rituals in Ink: Horace on the Greek Lyric Tradition, Alessandro Barchiesi

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