Richard Heinze (trr. Hazel Harvey, David Harvey and Fred Robertson; introd. Antonie Wlosok), Virgil's Epic Technique. London: Bristol Classical Press, 1999. Pp. xiv + 401. ISBN 1-85399-579-7. UK£16.95.
William J. Dominik
University of Natal, Durban
Richard Heinze's Virgils epische Technik (1903) is inarguably one of the major works on Vergil of the twentieth century. But until the English translation of Hazel Harvey, David Harvey and Fred Robertson appeared in 1993, there was a tendency among some Anglophone scholars to gloss over its critical achievement since only those who could read German were truly aware of its importance to Vergilian studies. Part of the importance of this critical work stems from the fact that it was originally published at the beginning of the twentieth century after Vergil's reputation as a poet had undergone a battering at the hands of various scholars in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was the fashion among scholars of the time to look for supposed weaknesses, inconsistences and other lapses of poetic judgement. Scholars argued at the time that the Aeneid was a derivative epic and therefore its writer was not worthy to be considered a poet. It was widely held that Vergil had copied indiscriminately from his predecessors without an overall conception or a unifying plan of action. Heinze's revolutionary work immediately helped to restore a sense of balance to Vergilian studies, as it helped to divert critical energies to the issue of Vergil's artistry and achievement in relation to his poetic aims, sources and precursors. In the first half of his book Heinze analyses the technique of some of the major passages in the Aeneid; in the second half he summarises the results of his investigation of these passages and attempts to provide an overview of Vergil's poetic technique. While the central concern of Heinze's study involved the intentions of the poet, a concept that has lost favour among literary critics in the late twentieth century, Heinze effectively established that Vergil shaped his material with a clear poetic vision in mind. Virgils epische Technik was critically well ahead of its time when it was first published, as is apparent from the fact that it immediately encouraged scholars to consider various aspects of Vergil's narrative technique and adaptation of his sources although, of course, there were those who did not approve of his new critical methods. By focusing on the narrative technique of the poet, by looking for the significance of passages adapted from Homer and other poets, and by generally avoiding subjective value judgements, Heinze laid the foundation of a number of critical trends in the interpretation of the Aeneid in the twentieth century. While some of his ideas never really gained critical acceptance, others generally accepted have since gone out of fashion--for instance, his view that Aeneas' character gradually moves toward perfection and toward the ideal of Roman Stoicism is undermined by numerous incidents in the narrative--but even today no one serious critic of Vergil can fail to take note of Heinze's scholarly contribution. Vergilian scholars everywhere outside Germany, not just in Anglophone countries, owe a handsome debt to the translators of this important text.