History & Politics

Ideology in Cold Blood : A Reading of Lucan's Civil War
by Shadi Bartsch

Ideology in Cold Blood : A Reading of Lucan's Civil War offers new interpretations of the epic poem by Lucan about the civil wars which brought about an end of the Roman republic. Writing during the tyrannical rule of Emperor Nero, Lucan's account of the downfall of the republic portrays his hero Pompey in an ambiguous light, amidst the carnage and destruction that reigned throughout the entire Roman world. Fascinated by the grotesque destruction of human lives, Lucan's poem draws heavily on the violence and nihilism of the conflict, often overshadowing the tragedy and heroism of its characters.

Written with a style that is both shrewd and lively, Ideology in Cold Blood answers the question whether Lucan reflects ideological poetry at its most flagrant or a despairing proclamation of the meaninglessness of ideology. Shadi Bartsch places the paradoxes of Lucan in the context of recent political thought, literary theory, and ancient sources. She contributes to our understanding of poetry as a means of political expression by finding in Lucan's epic the redemptive power of storytelling set against the irony of a universally perceived need for political ideology vying paradoxically with universal suspicions of those same ideologies.

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About the Author

The results of the Erotikon Symposium, a three day symposium organized in 2001 to debate the full meaning of eros in both a classical and modern context, were compiled and edited by Shadi Bartsch and Thomas Bartscherer. As a classical historian, Shadi Bartsch is primarily devoted to Roman literature and culture of the early imperial period. She is chair of the Department of Classics and a professor in the Committees on the History of Culture and on the Ancient Mediterranean World at the University of Chicago, and is the author of a number of books relating to Roman literature, including Ideology in Cold Blood, Actors in the Audience, and Decoding the Ancient Novel.

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