April 23, 2006

Rance, Procopius, and the Advantages to Re– and Close Reading

I must confess that whenever I read an article, particularly recent or newly discovered ones, that pertain to my dissertation, I often feel a little bit disappointed: I'm so keen to try and uncover new and original things about Procopius, and a little wary whenever it seems that something has already been done. So, it was with a little bit of consternation that I read Rance's recent article on battle in Procopius, and more specifially, the battle of Taginae in 552. Does this article put work to rest? Luckily no.
First, as I've come to expect from Rance's work, it's well written, carefully researched, and full of some interesting and important points. Somewhat surprisingly – though perhaps it shouldn't be – there are some observations/findings of Rance that match what I've found in my work thus far. So, from a positive perspective, that means that my findings are not way out of line. But, the article focuses on one battle – though he discusses and refers to many other parts of Procopius' narrative – and includes an important discussion of Late Roman tactics, and in particular, the importance of infantry in Late Roman army. I think it's important; in part because the secondary literature that he refers to often neglects the many narrative techniques that Procopius uses in his battle descriptions. One must always bear these in mind, and that's perhaps the most important thing that I'm planning on discussing through the course of my dissertation; specifically in the context of warfare.
One thing that Rance has done is look at the battle in isolation, and treated not just the narrative, its tactics, strategic importance, and place within late Roman warfare, but he also discussed the factional and fictional elements in Procopius' narrative. I haven't yet decided whether I should look at the non-fictional elements of his battle narratives; at present I'm not discussing the battles on their own – though when I'm doing the research I do look at each independently – but rather topically. Which is better? I think it depends on the context. I may yet decide in my disseration to look at the battles individually, though I'm not sure how'd I'd fit them into my current research plan.
I highlighted the importance of re- and close reading in my title. No matter how many times I go back over the parts of Procopius' narrative that I'm looking at now, I always seem to find something new. Significantly, re-reading articles and books can also be important in this regard. I'm re-reading an article – and this blog entry represents a break from that reading while I listen to the NHL playoffs – on narratology in Thucydides and in it Hornblower has noted some things that I need to look for in Procopius: I think I had had them in mind at first, but when you're reading so much, it's not hard to lose thoughts/ideas in the shuffle. I guess that's one main reason why it's important to make notes of all thoughts, and to try and keep them separate or categorized, and organized. Yeah. I guess that makes sense.
So, now I need to go back through Procopius' battles and think more about anachrony and linearization. Because of the structure of the 'Wars', it's hard to classify his work as either linear or otherwise. It's divided like Appian's (writing in the 2nd century AD) 'History' of the republican wars, though there are fewer wars and they are treated in more detail. Anyway, back to the article…

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