Title

Nightmare Imagery and the Ethical Aim of De Rerum Natura

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Presentation

Abstract

In the context of the ethical aims of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, nightmare imagery can explain some of the difficulties presented to modern readers of didactic poetry. Lucretius' unique style has caused much debate regarding his vehement argumentation in favor of Epicureanism. His vivid treatment of dreams in both an ethical and scientific context can account for several rhetorical and didactic strategies, namely nightmares as a scare-tactic. A large part of Lucretius' work is devoted to convincing Romans to adopt his teachings, which he accomplishes using, among other tools, a wide array of threatening description. While researching this aspect of the poem, I examined Lucretius' explanation of dreaming in Book 4 particularly as well as relevant areas of Books 1-3. I used regular philological methodology and based my conclusions on close examination of the text while citing modern researchers. Charles Segal's article Dreams and Poets in Lucretius argues for the significance of dreaming in the poem and was influential in this paper. It is important when reading Lucretius to establish some historical context for his work while remaining true to textual evidence. The personae for teacher and student perform a key function in the poem, as do the precepts the author wishes to communicate.

Although Lucretius has less to offer us now in the field of science, his poem is the precursor for many of the principles we take for granted, particularly atomic theory. The work is important to scientists who wish to understand the origins of their studies in addition to students of the humanities. The poem contributes much to philosophy, ethics, poetry, and history. Nightmare imagery plays a key role in Lucretius' strategy for converting Romans to Epicureanism, and it can account for aspects of the poem which may pose a problem to a modern audience.

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Nightmare Imagery and the Ethical Aim of De Rerum Natura

UC 332

In the context of the ethical aims of Lucretius' De Rerum Natura, nightmare imagery can explain some of the difficulties presented to modern readers of didactic poetry. Lucretius' unique style has caused much debate regarding his vehement argumentation in favor of Epicureanism. His vivid treatment of dreams in both an ethical and scientific context can account for several rhetorical and didactic strategies, namely nightmares as a scare-tactic. A large part of Lucretius' work is devoted to convincing Romans to adopt his teachings, which he accomplishes using, among other tools, a wide array of threatening description. While researching this aspect of the poem, I examined Lucretius' explanation of dreaming in Book 4 particularly as well as relevant areas of Books 1-3. I used regular philological methodology and based my conclusions on close examination of the text while citing modern researchers. Charles Segal's article Dreams and Poets in Lucretius argues for the significance of dreaming in the poem and was influential in this paper. It is important when reading Lucretius to establish some historical context for his work while remaining true to textual evidence. The personae for teacher and student perform a key function in the poem, as do the precepts the author wishes to communicate.

Although Lucretius has less to offer us now in the field of science, his poem is the precursor for many of the principles we take for granted, particularly atomic theory. The work is important to scientists who wish to understand the origins of their studies in addition to students of the humanities. The poem contributes much to philosophy, ethics, poetry, and history. Nightmare imagery plays a key role in Lucretius' strategy for converting Romans to Epicureanism, and it can account for aspects of the poem which may pose a problem to a modern audience.