Wait a minute…this sounds like rock and/or roll! Indeed, after some digging through attic boxes stuffed with 45s, 8-tracks, and cassettes, the guys sit down to puzzle over a number of classical allusions in pop songs from the ‘60s to the present day. The references are all over the place—from prog rock to new wave to folk to jazz-fusion to regrettable dabblings by Bob Dylan in cheese-ball ‘80s production. What purposes do these allusions serve? Is it just to make the singer look smart (looking at you, Sting)? To comment wryly on an ankle injury (sorry to hear about that, Mr. Plant)? To apply core themes of Plato’s Euthyphro to social commentary (Jay-Z and Kanye, really?)? So clean that wax out of your ears, strap yourself to that mast, and tune in as Jeff attempts to defend his title as “Johnny Pop” and Dave wrestles with jazz aversions and the over-cutesiness of folk.
Do you smell that? Could it be the warm smell of colitas rising up through the air? Or did Dave over-microwave his gas station burrito again? Well, whatever the odor is, this path paved with good intentions (and a little cement) is leading Aeneas and company to you know where. Our Trojan exiles have finally reached the stillettoed boot of Italy. But before they can plant a flag and put up their feet, Aeneas has to take a detour down into the Underworld for one last chat with dad. But how to get there? As the Cumaean Sybil says, the gettin’ in is the easy part, it’s the leaving that’ll give you fits. So, keep your eye out for lost comrades, watch those birds, and “bough down”, ut dicunt. Such a lovely place, such a lovely face.
This week the guys close out their look at Book V with continued questions about the relevance of this break in the epic's main action. Are we really supposed to find deep meaning in flaming arrows? Is there coded symbolism when Dares starts flexing and popping his pecs like Schwarzeneggar auditioning for Conan: This Time He's Even More Greased Up? And what's with that "Trojan Game"? Maybe there's a reason it never translated to the board or video variety. Is its sole function to bring out Dave's grim loathing of parades? But hold tight--there's also some genuine, keel-smoldering pathos here. Juno's intent on barbecuing the Trojan fleet and there's poignant loss at the end. So don't throw in the towel, go the full ten rounds.
Remember when you were a kid and eagerly waiting for that next episode of Family Ties, so you could pick up the continuing action of the Keaton family from the week before? But then they hit you with some weak-sauce clip show where nothing happens except Michael J. Fox getting some time off to film Teen Wolf VI? Well, many have suspected that Vergil is up to something similar in Book 5. We seem to go from the high drama and pathos of Book 4 to competitive paddling and “everybody gets a trophy” day. What happened to the “epic”? But maybe this isn’t just time-killing filler. Maybe Vergil is letting us catch our breath and setting up the next dark turn in these exiles’ fate. Hang on to that rudder, keep an eye on those rocks, and be prepared to nudge your pilot into the brine if need be.
This week Jeff and Dave take a sustained look at an-oft discussed but ill-defined notion: what, if anything, gives people dignity? Drawing on the work of famous, late scholar Charles Trinkaus (The Scope of Renaissance Humanism), the guys trace this notion from Cicero through the Greek and Latin fathers and into the trecento. Thanks to the diligent spadery of Chuck T., you'll enjoy a who's who of what's what when it comes to key themes and ideas surrounding what separates man (and woman) from animal, the noble brute. In the end it all comes down to Petrarch, Ficino, Mirandola, and Peter 'Et' Cetera of Chicago fame. The jinx here may be lower than normal, but the substance is swole. Don't miss it!
This week we at last reach the grim, tragic climax of Book IV of the Aeneid, where the height of Dido’s madness is matched only by the depth of Aeneas’ strange indifference. When Jeff innocently pauses to comment on the “cinematic” nature of Vergil’s language and pacing, Dave pushes back, and the guys tussle over whether literary narratives are always superior to visual ones. Would Vergil be a Scorsese today? Or would that make him a lesser artist by default, if he set down his pen? Are there genres that are better served on he screen? At any rate, things are getting bleak in Carthage—Dido’s flirting with black magic, raving about the citadel, preparing for a grisly end - and what does Aeneas decide to do? Catch a nap on the poop deck. What is going on with this guy?
We’re getting to the “dessert” portion of this banquet of a book; sounds great, right? Well, dismiss those visions of truffles and gelato from your mind because these “afters” are more akin to lettuce-plated Jell-O replete with creepy, suspended fruits. Why? Because in this episode we get the big breakup scene and it is a doozy. Dido gets wind that Aeneas is trying to shuffle out the back door without so much as a text and corners him. Does Aeneas get the tongue-lashing he deserves or is her response so unhinged as to be completely irrational? Is Fate’s prodding of Aeneas toward Italy the ultimate get-out-of-the-relationship card or is he just this year’s C. Caddy McCadderson? See if you agree with William Anderson’s hot take that Aeneas is actually “heroic” in his response. There’s a pyre on fire and baby it’s getting dire. More Jell-O, anyone?
It’s getting steamy in Carthage, as Aeneas and Dido find themselves alone in a cave, separated from the hunt, chased there by an Olympus-sent thunderstorm. But what exactly happens therein? Two lovers simply giving into their desires or is it, as Dido (and Juno) believes, an actual marriage? Is the worst part that Dido has forsaken her vows to her dead husband or that this wedding is shamwow by Roman standards? Where’s the overpriced DJ? Where’s Achates’ overlong and embarrassing “best man” toast? Where’s the can-shackled chariot with the off-kilter “Nuper Nupta!” sign? The guys (with a little help from Brooks Otis and William Anderson) spelunk their way to the answers. And don’t miss the special Princess Bride intro—fans of the movie might see where this is going, but don’t expect a fist bump from Dave. Mawage?
Jeff and Dave are back at it after a tiny hiatus and a southern-fried roadtrip. In this episode we seek to figure out, with the help of Brooks Otis, why Aeneas is such a passive character in Book IV. Why doesn't he show a little more chutzpah, temerity, and boldness as he traipses around Carthage? And why is Dido so darkly verklempt? Juno and Venus do some role-shifting as the darts of Cupid's passion work their way imperceptibly through Dido's cervine heart. A cave, an eloquent sister serving as matchmaker, the 70's hit Loveboat, and Dave's usual pedantry: this episode nearly has it all. And stay tuned for Jeff's signature exercise program so you can learn how to walk like a Classicist!
This week Dave and Jeff take a break from Vergil (well, kinda) and fast forward a few centuries to Augustine of Hippo. Now, here’s a guy that a lot of our audience should be able to relate to—openly hated learning grammar as a kid, beat his head against the wall trying to master Greek, pushed back against things his teachers forced him to do. But as an older man looking back through his life in his Confessions Augie feels guilt for loving the Aeneid so much and not appreciating, say, the foundational aspects of the dative of reference, as well as not weeping for his own flagrant dalliances. But were those tears for Dido really wasted? Can good art channel our emotions in a healthy direction or does it always take us off the path toward God? And why can’t Jeff just keep it together at the end of Pixar’s Cars? Tune in to find out.