Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in by Sharon L. James

By Sharon L. James

This learn transforms our knowing of Roman love elegy, an enormous and complicated corpus of poetry that flourished within the overdue first century b.c.e. Sharon L. James reads key poems via Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid for the 1st time from the viewpoint of the girl to whom they're addressed--the docta puella, or realized lady, the poet's loved. via analyzing the poetry no longer, as has consistently been performed, from the stance of the elite male writers--as plaint and confession--but particularly from the point of view of the women--thus as persuasion and tried manipulation--James finds innovations and substance that not anyone has listened for before.

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Incipe iam angusto versus includere torno, inque tuos ignis, dure poeta, veni! tu non Antimacho, non tutior ibis Homero: despicit et magnos recta puella deos. (41–46) Quit composing your words in Aeschylean dress,55 quit; and turn your limbs to soft meters. , of passion]! Introduction / 15 You won’t travel more safely than Antimachos, nor Homer: and any right-thinking girl has contempt even for the great gods. The poem goes on to advertise the lover-poet’s own success with girls and to advise a similar course for his newly enamored friend Lynceus:56 aspice me, cui parva domi fortuna relicta est nullus et antiquo Marte triumphus avi, ut regnem mixtas inter conviva puellas hoc ego, quo tibi nunc elevor, ingenio!

Where the Callimachean recusatio originally rejected epic poetry on aesthetic grounds, elegy does so as its first strategy for achieving sexual access to the beloved, for epic poetry does not appeal to pretty girls. 47 Hence for her, the elegiac recusatio must always be seen as suspect, since its motives are self-serving rather than disinterested, sexual rather than aesthetic. 50 In the Fasti, of all places, Ovid marks the lover’s learned speech as generic sexual persuasion, for the lover’s song at his beloved’s door is an appeal to her for entry: eloquiumque fuit duram exorare puellam / proque sua causa quisque disertus erat (Fast.

The letter, in other words, is an advance scout in the dangerous terrain of elegiac love. Since the praeceptor cannot assume that his putative pupil is adequately learned, he offers a crucial instruction: his young male readers should become well versed in language, in order not to practice law or politics but to persuade girls: disce bonas artes, moneo, Romana iuventus, non tantum trepidos ut tueare reos: quam populus iudexque gravis lectusque senatus, tam dabit eloquio victa puella manus (459–52) Introduction / 19 Learn liberal arts, I’m warning you, Roman young men, not only so that you may represent fearful defendants: as the populace and the stern judge and the chosen senate do, so a girl, conquered by eloquence, will surrender her hand.

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