VarietyThe Life of a Roman Concept

VarietyThe Life of a Roman Concept

William Fitzgerald

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780226299495

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book investigates the concept, value and poetics of variety, with a particular focus on the Roman concept of varietas and on Latin literature. It divides into two parts, the first belonging to the field of the history of ideas and the second to literary criticism. It argues that a combination of synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, commonplaces and conceptual issues form a distinctive cluster around the Latin word varius and its vernacular derivates, and identifies this ‘variety complex’ in its ancient and modern incarnations with particular reference to ideas of nature, creativity (human and divine), aesthetics and politics. The second part of the book begins by considering how the concept of variety functions in the work of particular Latin authors (Pliny the Younger, Lucretius and Horace); it proceeds to examine how the literary forms of the list and the priamel frame the experience of variety in different genres of Latin poetry, and, finally, describes how variety functions in the genre of the miscellany, with particular attention to the Noctes Atticae of Aulus Gellius. The study has its roots in Latin literature and language but ranges widely over European literature and thought of all periods to analyse the significance of an important but neglected value.