Graduate Interdisciplinary Seminar / News & Events

GIS report – 02/06/17

This week, GIS had a strong focus on literature, though the two presentations looked at very different themes within this field: while Valeria Pace analysed the aetiology in Moschus’ Hellenistic poem Europa, Gabriele Rota put forward some thoughts on manuscript tradition and textual history.


Europa on the new 50 Euro note

In her presentation on “Aetiology in Moschus’ Europa” Valeria Pace talked about gender and aetiology in a Hellenistic epyllion. Moschus’ Europa is a short poem in hexameters (made up by some 167 verses) datable to around the middle of the second century BC. The poem focuses on the story of Europa’s abduction and union with Zeus, disguised as bull. Though the poem’s opening contains heightened suggestions that the ensuing narrative will elaborate on the reasons why the heroine came to give her name to the continent ‘Europe’, the aetiological theme seems to be completely abandoned as the narrative progresses. Some scholars have been troubled by this, and have posited that we do not have the poem in its complete form; others have claimed that the poem’s real focus is the titillating depiction of the young girl’s nascent erotic desires, and the aetiological pointe is not at all a concern within the poem. Valeria argued that the poem’s narrative of desire is part and parcel of the aetiological intent of the poem. The question of Europa’s complicity in her abduction intertextually evokes a number of other texts that all make the aetiological question stand out. The goddess Aphrodite, moreover, covers a very important role in the story; Valeria discussed potential political implications in the implicit attribution of a continent being named after Europa to Aphrodite’s plan.


f.1r of M = Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plutei 49.18

In his presentation on “‘Conferendi non comburendi!’ – ‘Infinite bipartition’ and Coluccio Salutati’s manuscript of Ad Atticum” Gabriele Rota discussed the value of stemmatic analysis for a very productive manuscript branch of Cicero’s Ad Atticum. In a draft of an article on stemmatics that he never published, Sebastiano Timpanaro (1923–2000) noted how ‘the multiplication of subarchetypes is produced, very often by the work of excellent philologists too, on the basis of variants of little significance or none whatsoever’ (transl. G. W. Most). The aim of Gabriele’s paper was to clarify how the phenomenon that Timpanaro termed ‘infinite bipartition’ relates to large-scale scribal correction and subsequent widespread contamination in Renaissance transmissions of Latin classical texts. After Gabriele had given his own interpretation of the seeming preponderance of bipartite stemmata codicum (i.e. Bédier’s paradox), he offered some practical advice on how to make sense of contaminated traditions. In doing so, Gabriele discussed the progeny of Coluccio Salutati’s (1331–1406) manuscript of Cicero’s Epistulae ad Atticum: M = Firenze, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Plutei 49.18. Editors allege that M descends from the archetype Ω via a mediaeval intermediary Δ, from which descends also a mixed group of 15th- century (mostly Florentine) manuscripts; further, they maintain that a stemma for these other manuscripts cannot be reconstructed, because deep-seated contamination frustrates any attempt at Lachmannian genealogy (i.e. based on shared errors). Gabriele, however, argued that none of this is true: all the other Δ manuscripts descend from M, which in turn descends from Ω directly.


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