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Learned Girls and Male Persuasion

Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy

SHARON L. JAMES
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 365
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pnf6f
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  • Book Info
    Learned Girls and Male Persuasion
    Book Description:

    This study transforms our understanding of Roman love elegy, an important and complex corpus of poetry that flourished in the late first century b.c.e. Sharon L. James reads key poems by Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid for the first time from the perspective of the woman to whom they are addressed-thedocta puella,or learned girl, the poet's beloved. By interpreting the poetry not, as has always been done, from the stance of the elite male writers-as plaint and confession-but rather from the viewpoint of the women-thus as persuasion and attempted manipulation-James reveals strategies and substance that no one has listened for before.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92866-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. PART I. CONCEPTS, STRUCTURES, AND CHARACTERS IN ROMAN LOVE ELEGY

    • 1. Introduction: Approaching Elegy
      (pp. 3-34)

      In the past two hundred years or so, studies in Roman love elegy of the sort mocked by Yeats in his poem “The Scholars” have been divided primarily into source research and interpretation. Both efforts have been necessary, as elegy is not easily understood, for two main reasons. First, it often seems to express deeply felt emotion in apparently, but inconsistently, autobiographical fashion, although it is at the same time obviously filled with artifice. Second, readers conditioned by romanticism to expect sincerity, spontaneity, and, often, biography, from their love poetry have stumbled over the ironies and obscurities of elegy, unable...

    • 2. Men, Women, Poetry, and Money: The Material Bases and Social Backgrounds of Elegy
      (pp. 35-68)

      Before we can begin reading Roman love elegy from the viewpoint of thedocta puella,and before investigating how that project benefits our understanding of elegy, we must identify the characters and clarify the arguments of the genre. This chapter considers the social and literary backgrounds to elegy, which will help both to clarify some of its arguments and to set up thepuella’s reading of them. Four major actors struggle in the elegiac drama. The primary agonists are the lover-poet and thedocta puella;the secondary players are thevirand thelena.They dispute over four issues: poetry,...

  6. PART II. THE MATERIAL GIRLS AND THE ARGUMENTS OF ELEGY; OR, THE DOCTA PUELLA READS ELEGY

    • 3 Against the Greedy Girl; or, The Docta Puella Does Not Live by Elegy Alone
      (pp. 71-107)

      This chapter treats the kindred subjects of the greedy girlfriend and the generous rival. These topoi are related as follows: thepuellademands gifts and money from her lovers (as advised by thelena;see chapter 2), the wealthy rival meets her demands, and the elegiac lover complains, arguing both that he has no means of paying her, since he is an impoverished poet, and that poetry is a better exchange for her favors than either concrete goods or coin. Underlying this set of demands and counterarguments are, first, thepuella’s material needs, which her lover-poet attempts to ignore or...

    • 4. Characters, Complaints, and the Stations of the Lover; or, Adventures and Laments in Elegy
      (pp. 108-152)

      The previous chapter examined explicit persuasion in the elegies about the greedy girl or the rival; this chapter focuses on implicit elegiac persuasion and on the standard episodes and attitudes of elegy. Since the elegiac lover seeks always to be the received lover (receptus amans,Prop. 2.14.28,Am.1.8.78), these elements are aimed at the same goal as every other argument in elegy— reception into the puella’ s bedroom. Implicit persuasion takes two forms—first, the elegiacquerela,or lament, and second, the lover’s characterization of himself as pathetic and thepuellaas cruel.¹ Much of the episodic content of...

  7. PART III. PROBLEMS OF GENDER AND GENRE, TEXT AND AUDIENCE, IN ROMAN LOVE ELEGY

    • 5. Necessary Female Beauty and Generic Male Resentment: Reading Elegy through Ovid
      (pp. 155-211)

      It is a given of scholarship on Ovid that he plays with and stretches the boundaries of genre. His designation of theMetamorphosesas a unified poem (carmen . . . perpetuum,Met.1.4) in epic meter marks this tendency as self-conscious and deliberate. In the context of Augustan Latin poetry, such a program merits investigation. Scholars divide over the purpose, effect, and success of Ovid’s playful assault on genre, though it is probably safe to say that many, if not most, readers find him flippant, often shockingly and inappropriately so, with the result that his work is judged inferior...

    • 6. Poetry, Politics, Sex, Status: How the Docta Puella Serves Elegy
      (pp. 212-224)

      My final discussion assesses the results of reading Roman love elegy from the viewpoint of thedocta puella(as well as rereading it through an Ovidian lens) and then speculates further about how such a project assists in either clarifying the purposes and workings of elegy or in adding complexity and depth to both the poetry and its contexts. My three focal points are the poetic, political-historical, and female-social axes of elegy (which, perhaps more than any other ancient genre, requires a specific kind of generic woman); and my chief goal is to ask both what functions elegy serves in...

  8. Appendix
    (pp. 225-238)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 239-322)
  10. Works Cited
    (pp. 323-336)
  11. General Index
    (pp. 337-344)
  12. Index Locorum
    (pp. 345-350)