Playing the Farmer: Representations of Rural Life in Vergil's Georgics.


Vergil's Georgics is a poem about farming, but the work's agricultural subject matter has often proved a problem, if not a downright embarrassment, to modern readers. It is true that scholars today are less likely than a few decades ago to view the poet's teaching on crops, trees, flocks, and bees as a mere façade for the imparting of some more profound truth (as exemplified most notoriously in Bernd Effe's designation of the Georgics as a 'transparent' didactic poem in his 1977 Dichtung und Lehre) and that they are accustomed at least to pay lip service to the significance of the agricultural theme for the interpretation of the work as whole. Nevertheless, many critics (including the present reviewer) still have a tendency to elide the very content of Vergil's teaching, whether out of ignorance, lack of interest, or sheer puzzlement at what the poet and his readers might have found so fascinating about types of soil or the construction of a threshing floor.


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