God and the Land: The Metaphysics of Farming in Hesiod and Vergil

Overview

In this pathbreaking book, which includes a powerful new translation of Hesiod's Works and Days by esteemed translator David Grene, Stephanie Nelson argues that a society's vision of farming contains deep indications about its view of the human place within nature, and our relationship to the divine. She contends that both Hesiod in the Works and Days and Vergil in the Georgics saw farming in this way, and so wrote their poems not only about farming itself, but also about its ...

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Overview

In this pathbreaking book, which includes a powerful new translation of Hesiod's Works and Days by esteemed translator David Grene, Stephanie Nelson argues that a society's vision of farming contains deep indications about its view of the human place within nature, and our relationship to the divine. She contends that both Hesiod in the Works and Days and Vergil in the Georgics saw farming in this way, and so wrote their poems not only about farming itself, but also about its deeper ethical and religious implications.

Hesiod, Nelson argues, saw farming as revealing that man must live by the sweat of his brow, and that good, for human beings, must always be accompanied by hardship. Within this vision justice, competition, cooperation, and the need for labor take their place alongside the uncertainties of the seasons and even of particular lucky and unlucky days to form a meaningful whole within which human life is an integral part. Vergil, Nelson argues, deliberately modeled his poem upon the Works and Days, and did so in order to reveal that his is a very different vision. Hesiod saw the hardship in farming; Vergil sees its violence as well. Farming is for him both our life within nature, and also our battle against her. Against the background of Hesiods poem, which found a single meaning for human life, Vergil thus creates a split vision and suggests that human beings may be radically alienated from both nature and the divine. Nelson argues that both the Georgics and the Works and Days have been misread because scholars have not seen the importance of the connection between the two poems, and because they have not seen that farming is the true concern of both, farming in its deepest and most profoundly unsettling sense.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"...helpful insights here into two fascinating poems."—New England Classical Journal

"God and the Land...offers perceptive readings in clear prose. English translations precede all citations from Latin and Greek. Nelson's discussion, which always begins with basics, would be a useful introduction for undergraduates."—Religious Studies Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195117400
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 1320L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephanie Nelson is Assistant Professor of Classics, Boston University.

The late David Grene was a translator of Greek tragedy and history and founding member of the University of Chicago's Committee on Social Thought.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations
Geneaological Table 2
Translator's Note: Hesiod's Works and Days 5
Hesiod's Works and Days 9
Introduction: Hesiod, Poet and Farmer 31
1 The Composition of Hesiod's Poems 41
The Composition of the Theogony 44
The Composition of the Works and Days 46
The Farmer's Year 48
2 The Mythic Background 59
Hesiod's Outlook 59
Pandora and the Nature of Hardship 64
The Five Ages: The History of Hardship 68
Hesiod's Fable and the Justice of Zeus 77
3 The Composition of the Georgics: Vergil's Farm 82
Roman Farming 88
Vergil's Works and Days 91
Vergil and the Animals 94
4 God 98
The Divine Order 98
Zeus and His Children 104
The Theology of Farming 107
The Gods of the Georgics 110
The Georgic of Force 113
The Georgic of Understanding 117
5 The Human Context 125
Justice, Perception, and Farming 125
The Balance of Justice 130
The Place of Justice 135
Force and Order: Vergil and Caesar 138
The Third Georgic: The Problem of the Individual 141
The Fourth Georgic: The Promise of the Whole 146
6 The Place of Nature 152
The City, the Farm, and Nature 152
Orpheus and Aristaeus 155
Hesiod and the Balance of Nature 162
Notes 171
Bibliography 231
Index 247
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