Matthew Gorey (PhD '17) publishes book on Virgil and Lucretius

Submitted by Deborah E Kamen on

by Stephen Hinds

Congratulations to Matthew Gorey, whose book Atomism in the Aeneid: Physics, Politics, and Cosmological Disorder was published in March by Oxford University Press; it seems like no time ago that Matthew was defending the dissertation prototype here in Seattle.  The front cover image shows 'Neptune calming the tempest from Book I of the Aeneid' by Marcantonio Raimondi (ca. 1515-16).  The back cover tells us on excellent authority that the book 'makes an original and valuable contribution both to our understanding of the pervasive allusions to Lucretius in the Aeneid, and to the study of Virgil’s political imagery' (Philip Hardie), as more broadly 'to our understanding of Virgil's engagement with philosophy, a topic with wide-ranging implications for intellectual history' (Julia D. Heyduk). 

Matthew, currently a visiting assistant professor at Wabash College, has always been interested in unexpected uses of technical language in poetry.  A happy juxtaposition of courses on the Aeneid and the De Rerum Natura in his undergraduate years at Georgetown led to an abiding fascination with the connections between the two poems:  'I remember being struck by a moment near the end of the Aeneid where Turnus hurls a stone at Aeneas "through the empty void" (vacuum per inane) in a final, failed attempt to defeat his opponent. That strange use of Lucretius's specialized term for the atomic "void" got me thinking about what it would mean for the Aeneid to engage seriously with the philosophy of Lucretian atomism'.

An atomic sequel is in the works:  Matthew has another project under way that examines the broader cultural reception of Epicurean atomism in Ancient Greek and Roman literature. 

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