Skip to content

Andrea Rotstein: Orality in the Aeneid: Signs or Fictions?

About the Workshop

This workshop explores from a multidisciplinary standpoint how oral literature stands alongside and engages with texts in literate societies. While the study of oral literature has transformed many disciplines in the last century, the label of “true” orality was originally granted only to pre-literate traditions. We bring together a variety of perspectives as to how different disciplines have bridged the perceived gap between verbal art and artistic text. To that end, the workshop builds an ongoing conversation on
topics such as the transmission and textualization of folk literature, the interplay between spoken word and written text, and the sociology of reading and performance. 

Our aim is to broaden participants’ perspectives of oral literature in a literate society by encouraging a methodological dialogue across disciplines. Each session features an invited speaker who gives a short introduction to a pre-circulated paper followed by a respondent who will open the discussion. We warmly invite anyone who is interested in questions surrounding orality and literacy to join us for food and fellowship.

Please join our mailing list to receive notices about events and pre-circulated papers. 

Andrea Rotstein: Orality in the Aeneid: Signs or Fictions?


Abstract: From the beginning of the oral formulaic theory Vergil’s Aeneid has been usually placed towards the “written” side of the orality & literacy spectrum. This paper claims that the Aeneid may be more orally-derived than we usually think. After exploring Vergil’s methods of composition and his implied attitudes regarding the spoken and the written word, this paper will examine the figure known as Theme and Variation. It will be argued that synonymous cola, a feature known from non-Homeric poetic traditions, were used by Vergil as a compositional principle in order to enhance the oral-like style of the Aeneid, and thus contribute to its aural comprehension.