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For two millennia, the Ars Poetica (Art of Poetry), the 476-line literary treatise in verse with which Horace closed his career, has served as a paradigmatic manual for writers. Rarely has it been considered as a poem in its own right, or else it has been disparaged as a great poet’s baffling outlier. Here, Jennifer Ferriss-Hill for the first time fully reintegrates the Ars Poetica into Horace’s oeuvre, reading the poem as a coherent, complete, and exceptional literary artifact intimately linked with the larger themes pervading his work.
Arguing that the poem can be interpreted as a manual on how to live masquerading as a handbook on poetry, Ferriss-Hill traces its key themes to show that they extend beyond poetry to encompass friendship, laughter, intergenerational relationships, and human endeavor. If the poem is read for how it expresses itself, moreover, it emerges as an exemplum of art in which judicious repetitions of words and ideas join disparate parts into a seamless whole that nevertheless lends itself to being remade upon every reading.
Establishing the Ars Poetica as a logical evolution of Horace’s work, this book promises to inspire a long overdue reconsideration of a hugely influential yet misunderstood poem.