Dancing on the Fence: Tales of Poetry and Prose (Valentina Barrile, King's College London)

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 6th February 2020 / Venue: Seminar room 6, Rendall Building
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
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Himerius’ orations have often been considered a puzzle, too poeticising to be ‘proper’ prose, and yet not poetry; it has indeed been argued they are nothing more than poetry dressed as prose, valuable only for the poetic quotations embedded in them. Yet, would that be the correct assessment of the leading orator of his age? A change of perspective can bring to the fore a more incisive interpretation of this high-end prose style. What if Himerius was playing a sophisticated game of reflections? In the earlier history of its development, prose had established itself as a viable alternative to poetic expression by learning to re-create effects already mastered in poetic form, and yet it needed to distance itself from its older sibling in order not to get absorbed into its sphere. Poetry constitutes part of prose’s identity, but also the touchstone against which it is continuously measured. From an initial fluid state, in the classical age prose reached a level of self-awareness that allowed authors to play with its own components: this paper will argue that it is indeed this game that Himerius aims to play, with a virtuoso’s flair.