Time and Chronology in Creation Narratives

Conference 7th-9th June 2018

Ruth Parkes

The movement of time in Claudian

This paper will first show how, in Latin literary texts, the creation of time can be associated with the creation of the universe, just as the end of time can be associated with the collapse of the universe. It will then explore the development of man’s relationship with time from the Golden to the Iron Ages, drawing on the work of Feeney (2007). It will, for instance, examine the way the narrative of the Ages shows man becoming increasingly enmeshed in time (separation of the seasons; engagement with plotting star movement). It will go on to discuss the heuristic ramifications of such temporal context. Building on the work of Schiesaro (2009) concerning the Senecan Medea’s attempts to reverse time, it will argue that, in Seneca’s play, the features of time associated with the Iron Age backdrop underscore the inevitability of Medea’s failure, for all her power over time. The paper will then move to the main case-study of Claudian’s De Raptu Proserpinae. For little attention has been paid to the emphasis on the creation of time (depicted through Proserpina’s cosmogonic tapestry) and the changes involved in relationships with time which accompany the Iron age in which the poem is set. Exploration will be made of the contribution of this angle to interpretation of the text: for instance, looking at how awareness of the poem’s play with time colours our view of Dis’ offer of his own infernal Golden age or examining the poignancy of the inevitability of the forward movement of time in Proserpina’s ripening to become of marriageable age or the doom of the quasi-Golden Age in Sicily. Time cannot be stopped nor mastered within the poetic universe (in contrast to the staging of poet’s own narrative progression) and suggestions of power over time only underscore this fact.

Feeney, D. C. 2007. Caesar’s calendar: ancient time and the beginnings of history (Berkeley, California; London)
Schiesaro, A. 2006. ‘Seneca and the denial of the self’ in S. Bartsch and D. Wray (edd.) Seneca and the Self (Cambridge)

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