Call for Papers, SCS 2016

Vergilian Society CFP for SCS 2016

Happy Golden Anniversary, Harvard School!

Just about fifty years ago, three seminal works that W. R. Johnson would famously characterize as the “somewhat pessimistic Harvard school” (Darkness Visible [U. of Calif. 1976] 11, 156-57) were published:  Adam Parry’s “The Two Voices of Virgil’s Aeneid” (Arion 2 [1963] 66-80), Wendell Clausen’s “An Interpretation of the Aeneid” (HSCP 68 [1964] 139-47), and Michael Putnam’s The Poetry of the Aeneid (Harvard 1965).  As Clausen points out in his Appendix to Nicholas Horsfall’s Companion to the Study of Virgil (Brill 1995, pp. 313-14), the term “Harvard school” is misleading and its commonly assumed association with the Vietnam War and other political events of the mid-1960s inaccurate.  Nevertheless, the name has stuck, and a generally “pessimistic” reading of Virgil has come to be the dominant interpretive strain in American scholarship of the past half-century, just as a more “optimistic” strain tends to characterize Germanic scholarship.

This panel seeks to explore both interpretation and reception of Virgil as it relates to these trends.  For instance, are there ways in which readings of Virgil, from his own contemporaries through the mid-2010s, have or have not, individually or collectively, conformed to the “schools” of “optimism” or “pessimism”?  What do those terms actually mean?  If there is darkness in Virgil’s poems, what is its source?  Are “Harvard School” readings anachronistic?  Is the assumption that literature and its interpreters are heavily influenced by contemporary political events warranted?  Have readings changed as readers changed?

This is only a partial, suggestive list; papers addressing any issue pertaining to the “Harvard School” are welcome.  Please email abstracts conforming to the SCS “Guidelines for Authors of Abstracts” (except with works cited at the end of the document, not in a separate text box), in .docx or .pdf format, by 2 February 2015 to

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