Days and Seasons (A. Wolkenhauer, O. Wenskus)

This paper analyses the depiction and function of ’time’ in Latin epic poetry. Time is not only the very basis of the narration and as such organizes the narrative, but it also constitutes a series of type scenes. The overall rather scarce research on the topic is indicative of the insufficient scrutiny of time as an important cultural and historical convention. There is no ‘temporal turn’ equivalent to the ‘spatial turn’.

In epic poetry time has a twofold function: on the one hand it is used explicitly as the motif of time in which the specific nature of time becomes the subject of the text itself (such as in the case of Medea’s manipulation of time for Aeson in Ovid’s Metamorphoses), on the other hand it serves as the formative power of individual chronotopes. This contribution follows Bachtin’s definition of chronotopes as interactive forms in which space and time are related to each other in specific ways and generate further elements of the epic plot. An example of a typical chronotope in epic poetry is the sunrise, which frequently marks the beginning of a book or an individual action.

The following differentiation can be derived from the above definition, which shall serve as a guideline for this study:

1a) Discussion of ‚time’ as such (time magic, time reversal, timelessness, cosmic time, and proper time)

1b) Semantization of the different methods of time measurement (natural vs. cultural time reference, circular vs. linear description of time)

2a) Semantization of space-time, i.e. the connection of places and conditions with a specific mode of time (timeless islands, times of alterity, places with multiple attributions of time, the underworld)

2b) Semantization of time periods, i.e. the ascription of time to certain plot elements (daytime, season, era)