i also caught part of the 'lucretius, vergil, and ovid' session and heard two papers on vergil. the second was called 'the aristeia and the poetics of failure in book nine of vergil's aeneid', given by mark a. thorne of the university of iowa. he cites three times in book 9 in which an aristeia seems to be on the horizon and in which it ultimately fails: turnus' attack on the fleet (9.69ff.), compared to hector's attack in iliad 12; nisus' failed aristeia in 9.339ff., compared to the doloneia in iliad 10; finally, turnus almost gets his aristeia at 9.573-76. this is interesting, because turnus slays 7 opponents within three lines (citations taken from handout):
Ortygium Caeneus, victorem Caenea Turnus,
Turnus Ityn Cloniumque, Dioxippum Promolumque
et Sagarim et summis stantem pro turribus Idan... .
but then, right at the moment when the action seems to be taking off, vergil gives us this:
he changes the subject and diverts attention away from turnus. when turnus finally does get his aristeia, thorne argues that it ends in strategic failure (9.759ff.). if he had let his fellow soldiers in at the gates, vergil states that that would have been the last day of the war (759-61):
ultimus ille dies bello gentique fuisset.
sed furor ardentem caedisque insana cupido
egit in aduersos...
finally, he pointed out the importance of the final victim of turnus' aristeia, the poet cretheus, who is intended to remind us of the singer of the aeneid himself (semper equos atque arma virum pugnasque canebat, 9.777). if i remember correctly, thorne argued that, because the poet sang of arms, a man, and battles, he is the one person who should have been able to control the aristeia, but he is unable to--hence, epic failure and the need for a new form of combat (see summary below). in the death of cretheus, it seems to me, vergil also may be saying that poetry/art is ruined by war, or that it is powerless in the face of war.
here is thorne's summary of his argument (taken from handout):
In Book 9, Vergil sets up an aristeia three times only to abort each one as a poetic tactic to delay the start of the fighting. These are linked with the images of tragic death and mourning that lie at the center of the book. When Turnus finally is granted his full aristeia, it accomplishes nothing. I argue that Vergil has transformed the Homeric aristeia to show how glory through combat in the traditional "epic" sense must not be sought by Rome as its own end, for to do so will only result in further loss and defeat.