Monday 18 March 2013

Politics and Ethics in the Tyrant's Camp

The study of media, politics and society has for a long time been an interest of mine, and it was for this reason that when the time came for me to write up an undergraduate dissertation I chose to focus on the Civil War epic of Lucan, which I believed would nicely tie in these topics with my discipline of Classics.

This work is not what it at first seems however: far from presenting any kind of clear political manifesto, Lucan makes use of the nuanced complexities of the epic tradition to tear apart the flaws of contemporary Roman society. Like its companion, the Masters dissertation I wrote on the poetry of Statius, this essay deals with the literature of an imperial dynasty on the brink of collapse. Suddenly denied access to the familiar corridors of power however, Lucan's work has none of Statius' aspirant optimism and instead offers a glimpse of a world torn between tyranny and chaos, where the only constant is an endless crescendo of blood, gore and death.

What we find is a sickly parody of epic poetry, full of heroics without heroism and politics without any political message. This is at its heart an ethical text in which different political standpoints are one by one rejected, their hypocrisies exposed. No doubt this will be a sensation familiar to many participants in our political system today, with protest parties such as UKIP becoming increasingly present on British ballot papers.

The Poet Lucan and the Literary Journey: The Presentation and Establishment of Political and Ethical Views in Lucan's Civil War

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