February 17, 2013

Inappropriate description

I'm taking a few classes in dead languages at Columbia University, and reading much more literary analysis by Classics and English department academics.  I read in Frederick Ahl, "Form Empowered: Lucan's Pharsalia" (in Boyle, ed. Roman Epic), p. 137:
"[Roman poet ]Lucan's moral symbol, [the Stoic philosopher] Cato, shares rhetorical ground with the shrewdly apolitical Christ . . ." 
Yes, that Christ.  Regardless of whether Christ was apolitical or not (I don't think he was) referring to the putative Messiah as "shrewd" and "apolitical" is an instance of tapinosis, unintentionally belittling one's subject with descriptive terminology.

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