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When the Argo Met the Argo: Poetic Destruction in Valerius’ Argonautica

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Chapter Summary

Early in the first book of Valerius Flaccus' Argonautica, the poet dedicates twenty-eight lines to the construction and decoration of the Argo. As Timothy Stover has recently argued, this passage overtly enacts Valerius' own poetic construction of the Argonautica. Of course, metaphors of seafaring as poetry are traditional, reaching at least as far back as Hesiod; what is new in Valerius' realization of the metaphor and in Stover's reading of it is the addition of what might be termed a Lucanean metaphor of destructive poetic deforestation, implying that earlier poetic versions of the Argo become the literal material. The timber that Argus has broken apart to build the Argo becomes the timber of previous instantiations of the Argo, suggesting that destruction is an intrinsic part of Valerius' creative process, especially since his work has already been fashioned by other craftsmen so many times in the past.

Keywords: Argonautica; Flavian poetry; Lucanean metaphor; Valerius Flaccus



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