UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

A specter is haunting epic : a close reading of the apparition topos in Lucan's Bellum Civile Hilliard, Emma Caitlin


In the world of Greek and Latin epic poetry, supernatural apparitions loom large. Traditionally these episodes are sorted into three major topoi: the epic dream topos, the ghost or haunting topos, and the divine messenger topos. However, such categorization denies the complex and highly syncretistic model of ancient thought on supernatural beings. I propose a new “apparition topos” as a more flexible means of interpretation, one which allows space for different types of manifestation more clearly to inform one another. This thesis represents a focused application of the apparition topos. It provides a close reading of the two apparition scenes in Lucan’s Bellum Civile: Julius Caesar’s vision of Roma at the Rubicon (1.183–205) and the haunting of Pompey the Great by his wife, Julia (3.1–35). Central to the study is Lucan’s complicated relationship with Virgil, Latin literature’s most important epicist, and the interplay between Lucan’s specters and the ghosts and gods of the Aeneid is the primary concern of the text. Special attention is given to features of language, such as sentence structure and syntax, diction, and parallels of phrasing (both intratextual and intertextual). The findings provide a more nuanced understanding of Lucan’s epic and demonstrate the merits of applying a new, holistic way of looking at epic apparitions, subsuming ghosts, dreams, and gods as related phenomena worthy of close comparison.

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