Georgics Additional Summary



(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Georgics is didactic verse, purportedly instructing readers on matters relating to agriculture. As such, it nominally springs from the tradition established by Hesiod in the seventh century b.c.e. Though its subject provides a rural setting, the Georgics is assuredly not pastoral poetry. Similarly, though its structure is more complex than that of the Eclogues, there is no exalted theme, nor indeed is there any sustained narrative at all. What the Georgics essentially represents is evidence of a mature creative mind, one capable of writing about humble subjects in an elegant way that particularly reflects Augustan Rome.

Though not a narrative, the Georgics is a coherent work, one essentially independent of literary predecessors. On one level, the poem is Vergil’s response to his patron Maecenas’s request for a work that heralds the dignity of Roman agriculture. On another level, however, the Georgics reflects Vergil’s own wish for the rehabilitation of rural Italy from the anarchy, decay, and neglect that followed the civil wars. Obviously, it is only superficially a guide to farming; there is little in it that a farmer would not have already learned from experience, and it is difficult to imagine even the most cosmopolitan Augustan farmer consulting it as a manual.

Essentially, the Georgics is a virtuosic work of art arranged in four books...

(The entire section is 549 words.)


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Griffin, Jasper. Virgil. New York: Oxford University Press, 1986. A general introduction to Vergil’s life and works. The third chapter examines the Georgics in detail and provides a good explanation of the important themes of labor and duty. Includes a bibliography and an index.

Nappa, Christopher. Reading After Actium: Vergil’s “Georgics,” Octavian, and Rome. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005. A book-by-book analysis of the Georgics. Describes Vergil’s treatment of Octavian as one of the poem’s students, who is given the chance to learn how to wield power, control Rome’s resources, and prevent another civil war.

Perret, Jacques. “The Georgics.” In Virgil: A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by Steele Commager. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966. A concise examination of the Georgics. Discusses changes in Vergil’s life and his poetry in the period in which he composed the Georgics. Provides a useful chronology of Vergil’s life and relevant Roman history. Includes bibliography.

Slavitt, David R. Virgil. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1991. A superior overview of Vergil’s poetry. The second chapter discusses the Georgics and offers a rewarding analysis of the societal influences in the composition of the work, as well as discussing the poem’s influence on ancient and modern literature. Includes index and bibliography.

Volk, Katharina. The Poetics of Latin Didactic: Lucretius, Vergil, Ovid, Manilius. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. Analyzes the theory of poetics in the Georgics and four other works of didactic poetry. Chronicles the history of the genre and describes the characteristics of didactic poetry. Chapter 4 focuses on Georgics.

_______, ed. Vergil’s “Georgics.” New York: Oxford University Press, 2008. Collection of essays analyzing the work, including discussions of agriculture, tradition and meaning, authorial rhetoric, and myth and allusion in the Georgics. Volk’s essay reviews scholarly approaches to the poem since the 1970’s.

Wilkinson, L. P. The Georgics of Virgil: A Critical Survey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1969. The standard work of criticism for the Georgics. Places the poems within their literary and historical context and provides an exhaustive scholarly analysis.

________. Virgil: The Georgics. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1982. Excellent translation of the four books. The introduction is a rewarding source for beginners; it summarizes Vergil’s life and the political situation of the time, and discusses the Georgics’s place in literary tradition. Includes a bibliography and copious notes.