Last Classics talk of the quarter

Improvisation, Play, and the Origins of Latin Poetry
Caleb Dance (Washinton and Lee)
Wed. Nov. 30, @4.10pm – 912 Sproul Hall


Colin Webster, Assistant Professor, UC Davis, Classics Program

Several Roman authors of the late Republic and Augustan era embed explanations of the origin of poetry—and of Latin verse, in particular—in their own literary compositions. Through an examination of passages from Lucretius, Vergil, Livy, and Horace, I draw attention to the recurrence of improvisation and “play” (ludere, ludus) in these authors’ accounts of the earliest Latin poetic arts and hypothesize that notions of play and (feigned) improvisation persist in select genres of Augustan poetry.
My discussion of improvisation, play, and Latin poetry also draws upon The Homeric Hymn to Hermes, the Parry-Lord hypothesis of oral-formulaic composition, rap battles, Charlie Parker, and the ongoing role of improvisation in various creative processes, including music, storytelling, oratory, drama, and everyday conversation.


All are welcome! Refreshments will be provided.