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The cultural and historical legacy of classical antiquity in Rudolf Borchardt’s essay on Virgil’s Aeneid

Liliana Giacoponi. Trinational Graduate College "European Founding Myths in Literature, Art and Music". Universities of Florence, Bonn, Paris-IV-Sorbonne.

 

The cultural and historical legacy of classical antiquity in Rudolf Borchardt’s essay on Virgil’s Aeneid.

Liliana Giacoponi. Trinational Graduate College "European Founding Myths in Literature, Art and Music". Universities of Florence, Bonn, Paris-IV-Sorbonne.

The re-appropriation of classical texts contributes to the task of the construction of a collective memory and in addition responds to the need of overcoming crisis periods, when history and literature are less confident in themselves and more exposed to the pressure of ideological power. The rewriting impulse is repeatedly articulated in theoretical terms, nonetheless we should clearly point out that urgencies to pursue a new path, opposing new connections and new historical interpretation are often signs of weakness under which politics try to hide and mask, steering and manipulating the representation of our past and simultaneously influencing the work of intellectuals. In the new Web 2.0 era, we are exposed to new modes of reshaping our past presenting a more desirable future.[1] We should not forget, however, that we are the product of what we strive for[2]. In writing his essay on Virgil[3], Rudolph Borchardt wants to oppose to the currently accepted interpretation of the author of the Aeneid, his controversial point of view. Seen as a servant of the power, Virgil’s works were considered a fake re-interpretation of Greek models, lacking originality and life. The restoration of the past was helping Borchardt to restore his present, under whose attacks Borchardt himself will perish. His essay on Virgil is an answer to the political and social crisis of his time: Borchardt sees therefore the urgency of examining the whole situation from a distance, escaping its disruptive power. That leads his search to retrieve in the past with his philological and poetic attitude which enables him to comprehend as first the strength and the vitality of Virgil’s work[4]. It was nonetheless a failure from the personal point of view: his ideology was the one of a fugitive. Born in Germany he spent most of his life in Italy, were he died: imprisoned by German soldiers, cause of his Jewish origin. “Distanz ertragen”, that was for Botho Strauss the stylistic cypher of Borchardt. Strauss opinions were very questionable and utterly problematic, at the same time pointed out an important aspect of Borchardt’s work. We should permanently ask if we are conscious that history and literature have a voice, trying to be aware if we have still preserved a method that allows us freedom of thought when confronted with disputable historical issues[5] The revisionism trend tends to rewrite a politically correct historical account presenting counterfactual records of past events, downplaying conflicts and conveying a political convenient perspective. We should not fear to be confronted with complex and sometimes even aporetic historical issues. We need to study and question our classical past because it states that its lessons must be learned again and, especially in our present time, even more deeply avoiding to minimize crucial historical events just because they happened a long time ago and doesn’t seem to have connections with our present history.

Bibliography:

  • Borchardt, Rudolf, Virgilio, hrsg. Gianbiagio Conte, Vivetta Vivarelli, Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2016.
  • Burck, Erich, Vergils Aeneis, in Das romische Epos, Darmstadt, 1979, 51-119.
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  • Coste,Didier, « Rewriting, Literariness, Literary History », Revue LISA/LISA e-journal [En ligne], Vol. II - n°5 | 2004, mis en ligne le 02 novembre 2009, consulté le 24 juin 2017. URL : http://lisa.revues.org/2893 ; DOI : 10.4000/lisa.2893 
  • Curtius, Ernst Robert, Rudolf Borchardt über Vergil, in Ders., Kritische Essays zur europäischen Literatur, Bern-Munchen, 1954.
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  • Ders. Vergils Aeneis als augusteische Dichtung, in Von Göttern und Menschen erzählen: Formkonstanzen und Funktionswandel vormoderner Epik, hrsg. Jörg Rüpke, Franz Steiner, Stuttgart, 2001, 65-89.
  • Schmitzer, Ulrich, Das Abendland braucht keinen Vater mehr: Vergils Aeneis auf dem Weg in die Vergessenheit, Originalveröffentlichung in: Aleida Assmann (Hg.), Vergessene Texte der Weltliteratur, Konstanz 2004, 235-263.
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  • Strauss, Botho,  Anschwellender Bocksgesang (erweiterte Fassung). In: Der Pfahl. Jahrbuch aus dem Niemandsland zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft, Nr. VII, 1993. S. 9 - 25; ebenso in: Schwilk, Heimo; Schacht, Ulrich (Hrsg.): Die selbstbewußte Nation. “Anschwellender Bocksgesang” und weitere Beiträge zu einer deutschen Debatte. Frankfurt / Main - Berlin, 1994. S. 19 - 40.
  • White, Hayden, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.
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  • Wlosok, Antonie, Der Held als Ärgernis: Vergils Aeneas, Öffentlicher Vortrag, gehalten im Rahmen der Reihe 'Universität im Rathaus' am 17.12.1981 im Rathaus der Stadt Mainz.

[1]Domenichelli, Mario, Il polemos sul canone letterario europeo all’inizio del terzo millennio. Colonizzazioni,decolonizzazioni, postcolonizzazioni, migrazioni, ibridazioni culturali, Accessed 10/05/2017, http://diazilla.com/doc/575830/mario-domenichelli--versione-del-testo-con-evidenziazione.

[2] Williams, Raymond, Marxism and Literature, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1977.

[3] Borchardt, Rudolf, Virgilio, hrsg. Gianbiagio Conte , Vivetta Vivarelli, Pisa, Edizioni della Normale, 2016.

[4] Ibidem, p. 20.

[5] Spivak, Gayatri Chakraworty, Death of a Discipline, New York, Columbia University Press, 2003.

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