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Making Myron’s cow moo? Ecphrastic epigram and the poetics of simulation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)589-634
Number of pages46
JournalAMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHILOLOGY
Volume131
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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Abstract

Myron's bronze sculpture of a cow proved an extraordinarily popular subject for Greek and Latin epigram over an exceptionally long time-span (Palatine Anthology 9.713-42, 793-98, Posidippus 66 A-B, Ausonius 63-71, Epigrammata Bobiensia 10-13). But why the fascination? This article reads the image as an icon for the poetic simulations of ecphrastic epigram. First, it emphasises the ambivalence with which the poems celebrates the statue's verisimilitude: Myron's bronze cow at once convinces and fails to convince. Second, it relates the mimetic make-believe of the statue to the illusionism of literary epigram, especially epigrams on artworks: the virtually real cow figures the various pretences of the genre, fluctuating between material image, epigraphic inscription, and anthologised text. The more poems added to the series, the more pressing the replicative agenda: Myron's reproduction of a cow keeps on reproducing itself, in ever more playful (and playfully contrived) ways.

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