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‘The Classics’ As Potential For The Future: The ‘High Period’ Of Ancient Latin Literature

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Chapter Summary

Right from its beginning, Latin literature has always had a bivalent structure: the initial orientation towards Greek literature and culture does not disappear, but is preserved well into the Imperial era. Hence, Eduard Norden could use the relationship to Greek literature as a ‘criterion’ for Roman literature in his influential literary history. This ‘bivalence’ entails a specific disposition towards reflection within literary historiography, and leads to the development of differentiated outlines for the course of literary history. The establishment of a phase of gradual rising followed by ‘high period’, which is soon canonised, as well as the different ways in which later periods respond to such a peak, has proved to be very influential. Therefore, the ‘high period’ of ancient Latin literature, which is the subject of this chapter, is not an arbitrary differentiation of modern literary historiography: rather, this discrimination is founded in classical and post-classical processes of canonisation.

Keywords: ancient Latin literature; Greek literature; high period; literary history; Roman literature



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