From hell and back : crossing boundaries in Claudian‘s De Raptu Proserpinae

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Title: From hell and back : crossing boundaries in Claudian‘s De Raptu Proserpinae
Author: Boetsch, Dianne Elizabeth
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: Claudian‘s De Raptu Proserpinae, an unfinished epic poem which treats the god of the underworld‘s abduction of the eponymous maiden and her mother‘s frantic search for her missing daughter, is a departure from the poet‘s more well-known invectives and panegyrics. Rather than having any obvious political slant, De Raptu follows more in the tradition of other myth-based epics and clearly shows the influences of previous authors who have worked with mythic material in their epics. Scholars have identified Virgil, Ovid, Lucan and Statius as being some of Claudian‘s main predecessors for the structure of his epic and examined their influence for the forms of expressions that Claudian employs throughout the poem (Eaton, Hall 108, Dilke 60), and Hall sees that the ―poetic diction is closely modeled on that of Virgil and the imperial writers of epic‖ (Hall 110). Dilke identifies that Statius‘ Achilleid, an unfinished epic which begins to recount the myth and exploits of Achilles, is one of the primary models which Claudian uses for his epic poem (60). Gruzelier likewise identifies Ovid and Statius as being precursors to Claudian‘s work, claiming, ―The DRP is not an epic in the grand tradition, like the Iliad or the Aeneid. Its forerunners are to be found in the works of Ovid and Statius, particularly the Achilleid‖ (Gruzelier 1993: xxvii)... A careful examination of how boundaries are working within this poem, therefore, reveals not only a high degree of poetic unity, but also accounts for and exonerates Claudian from many of the problems that Hall, Gruzelier, and other critics of De Raptu have found with the epic. Many of the problems that Hall and other scholars take issue with can be resolved or better understood through this particular thematic lens. Critics have often found the prefaces to the first two books of the poem to be badly written and to have no thematic relation to the text and have discredited and disregarded their presence in the poem entirely. Hall also argues this point and claims that it is the opinion of many that the preface to the second book is possibly spurious (―a misplaced intruder,‖ Hall 94) and does not seem to fit with the rest of the work. As I will argue, however, not only does the persistent theme of boundaries, which runs through all three books, work to reveal the place and purpose of the prefaces within the fabric of the text, but both prefaces prove to be very similar in their thematic statement and function to establish the specific role which the crossing of boundaries has in the subsequent books and how such transgressions are to be viewed.
Subject: Epic poetry, Latin
Subject: Proserpina (Roman deity)
Subject: Claudianus, Claudius
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Boetsch, Dianne Elizabeth. "From hell and back : crossing boundaries in Claudian‘s De Raptu Proserpinae". 2011. Available electronically from

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