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The Meters of Boethius: Rhythmic Therapy in the Consolation of Philosophy

Blackwood, Stephen James (2010)
Dissertation (384 pages)
Committee Chair / Thesis Adviser: Jordan, Mark D
Committee Members: Corrigan, Kevin ; Farley, Wendy ; Tissol, Garth ;
Research Fields: Literature, Classical; Religion, Philosophy of; Language, Rhetoric and Composition
Keywords: Boethius; Meter; Rhythm; Poetry; Therapy; Structure; Consolation; Philosophy
Program: Laney Graduate School, Religion (Theological Studies)
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This dissertation examines the role of poetic meter in Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy. Composed of alternating poetry and prose, the Consolation contains more poetic meters than any other surviving ancient text. However, despite the work's immense popularity and exquisitely crafted structure, there has never been a systematic study of these meters. This dissertation argues that the poetic rhythms are essential to the programmatic therapy, or consolation, the text aims to achieve. The Introduction sets the dissertation's analysis in the context of aurality, both by evoking ancient literary culture, in which books were typically read aloud, and by pointing to the Consolation's many references to its own sound, and particularly to the sound of its poems. Chapter 1 contains a close reading of Book 1, and attends especially to the rhythms of its seven poems, and to the interplay between these rhythms and the prisoner's physical and psychological state. Chapter 2 traces the obvious metric repetitions of the text, and posits a therapeutic purpose to each. The first part of Chapter 3 contains an extensive formal analysis, which discovers several levels of rhythmic repetition that make up an intricate system that comprehends every line of the Consolation's poetry. The second part of the chapter situates this intricate rhythmic system in relation to recollection and the role of memoria in the formation of the soul, and concludes with an analogical reflection on the kinds of repetition that make up this intricate system. Chapter 4, by means of a close reading of Book 5, sets this acoustic system in relation to the Consolation's most comprehensive theological and psychological principles: the distinction and connection of the four modes of cognition; the divine vision that includes all things; and the human activity of prayer. The analysis indicates that the poetic rhythms are a primary aspect of the prisoner's therapy, administered by the healing Philosophia. Because the text is portrayed as an after the fact encounter, the repetition of the prisoner's narration is parallel with the reader's re-reading or re-hearing, and thus the systematic rhythmic therapy has the quality of a repeated liturgical act.

Table of Contents

Introduction: The Aural Tradition, 1 -- Music for the Mind, 1 -- Texts for the Ear, 3 -- Scriptura Continua and Reading Aloud, 8 -- The De institutione musica and the Sense of Hearing, 13 -- Sound, Rhythm, and Song: Hearing the Consolation of Philosophy, 19 -- Poetry as Theological Praxis, 24 -- Purpose, Method, and Structure of this Investigation, 25 -- Chapter 1: The Poetic Rhythms of Book 1, 34 -- 1, I Maestos Modos, 36 -- 1, 1 Adstitisse mulier, 44 -- 1, II Heu, quam praecipiti, 46 -- 1, 2 Sed medicinae, inquit, tempus est quam querelae, 55 -- 1, III Subito vibratus lumine Phoebus, 58 -- 1, 3 Philosophia, 66 -- 1, IV Invictum potuit tenere vultum, 69 -- 1, 4 Animo illabuntur?, 75 -- 1, V Fortunae salo, 76 -- 1, 5 Lenioribus paulisper utemur, 81 -- 1, VI Signat tempora propriis, 82 -- 1, 6 Modus curationis, 87 -- 1, VII Gaudia pelle, pelle timorem spemque fugato, 89 -- Rhythmic Summary, Poems of Book 1, 94 -- Chapter 2: Repeated Meters, 97 -- Six Repeated Meters: Gruber's Diagram and 3, IX, 97 -- 3, IX--Hexameter, 100 -- 1, I and 5, I--Elegaic Couplets, 106 -- 2, I and 3, XI--Choliambs, or Limping Iambic Trimeter, 111 -- 2, V and 3, V--Anapaestic Dimeter Catalectic, 118 -- 2, VI and 4, VII--Sapphic Hendecasyllable, 125 -- 1, V, 3, II, 4, VI, and 5, III--Anapaestic Dimeter, 129 -- 1, VI, 2, VIII, 3, XII, and 5, IV--Glyconic, 147 -- Repeated Sounds and the Levels of Soul, 167 -- Chapter 3: Repetition and Recollection: a System of Rhythmic Sound, 170 -- Part I, Formal Structure, 170 -- Repetition by Poem and Repetition by Line, 170 -- The Numerical Center, 176 -- Association and Acoustic Fabric, 178 -- Repetition by Element and 5, V, Anthology, 184 -- The Limits of Formal Analysis, 188 -- Part II, Functional Purpose, 191 -- Repetition, Memory, and Temporal Experience, 193 -- Sense Perception and Anamnesis, 196 -- Moral Character, ΓƒΕ½Γ…β€œΓƒΕ½Γ‚ΒΏΓƒΓ’β‚¬Β¦ΓƒΓ†β€™ΓƒΕ½Γ‚ΒΉΓƒΕ½Γ‚ΒΊΓƒΕ½Γ‚Β·ΓƒΖ’Γ…β€™, and Theosophic Design, 198 -- Memory as Cause and Effect of Literature, 203 -- Analogies of Rhythmic Repetition, 209 -- Other Kinds of Repetition, 221 -- Recognition and Recollection, 222 -- Chapter 4: Repetition and Narration: a Meditation on Book 5, 228 -- Repetition, Narration, and the Meditative Ascent, 228 -- Book 5: Freedom, Providence, and Prayer, 237 -- Divine Justice, Invisible, 237 -- Divine Power, Irresistible, 239 -- Philosophy's Response, Inscrutable Medicine, 240 -- Chance, Providence, and Freedom's Collapse, 242 -- Philosophy, Poet of the True Sun, 244 -- Prayer: the Solus Modus of Divine Grace, 247 -- Rhythm Remembered, Harmony Regained, 251 -- Knower and the Known, 255 -- Prayer and the Personality, 260 -- Time, Eternity, and Rhythmic Mediation, 264 -- The Divine Gaze, All Sustaining, 269 -- Silence and Sound: The Narrative and the Narrator, 273 -- Conclusion: Prayer, Mediation, and the Consolation's Theology, 278 -- Knowing, the One, and the Many, 278 -- Semi-Pelagianism, Grace, and the Freedom of the Will, 281 -- Theology as Speculative Science, 283 -- Poetry as Mediating Prayer, 287 -- Philosophia, Her Person and Her Poetry, 290 -- Philosophia as Sapientia: The Consolation and the Book of Wisdom, 293 -- Christian Ritual and Liturgical Prayer, 298 -- Figures, 304 -- List of Figures, 366 -- Bibliography, 368


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