Complex Inferiorities: The Poetics of the Weaker Voice in Latin Literature

ISBN : 9780198814061

Sebastian Matzner; Stephen Harrison
320 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Nov 2018
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This volume investigates an important and surprisingly widespread phenomenon in Latin literature, which has to date received little sustained discussion: the deliberate assumption of a weaker voice by speakers who in fact hold sufficient status not to be forced into this position. Though often associated with the markers of imperial hegemony and elite speech, Latin literature evinces a remarkably broad range of strategies designed to enable the adoption of a markedly disempowered voice. The series of case studies collected together in Complex Inferiorities cover a wide range of genres, periods, and authors: from topoi such as recusatio (professing a lack of ability to write in status-conforming, superior genres) and rhetorical devices such as prosopopoeia (artfully and strategically adopting a persona to garner favour, even when this means temporarily forfeiting one's higher status and discursive privileges), to the long-silenced female heroines of Ovid's Heroides and satire's irreverent take on the great and the good by framing its narratives as being articulated 'from below'. Even large-scale cultural self-positionings fall within this scope, be they expressions of Roman cultural inferiority vis-à-vis classical Greece or the tensions that arise between humble (yet spiritually superior) Christian writers and their grand, canonical, and classical (yet pagan) predecessors.

In demonstrating that re-negotiating alleged weakness constitutes a central activity in Latin literature, this volume reveals the extent of the literary and cultural-political possibilities opened up by assuming and speaking in voices of weakness and inferiority. Authored by experts in their fields, the individual chapters explore the crucial role of the 'weaker voice' in establishing, perpetuating, and challenging hierarchies and values in a wide range of contexts - from poetics and choices of genre, to social status and intra- and intercultural relations - and offer invaluable insights not only for the study of classics, but for literary and cultural studies across the humanities.


Note on Abbreviations
List of Contributors
0 Sebastian Matzner: Introduction: Latin Literature's Complex Inferiorities
1 William Fitzgerald: Claiming Inferiority: Weakness into Strength
2 Sebastian Matzner: How Do You Solve a Problem like Horace? On Roman Philhellenism and Postcolonial Critique
3 Amy Richlin: Blackface and Drag in the Palliata
4 Jean-Claude Julhe: Social Inferiority and Poetic Inferiority - Martial's Revenge in his Epigrams: A Commentary on Martial 5.13
5 Tom Geue: Drawing Blanks: The Pale Shades of 'Phaedrus' and 'Juvenal'
6 Victoria Rimell: The Creative Superiority of Self-Reproach: Horace's Ars Poetica
7 Ellen O'Gorman: 'The Noise, and the People': Popular clamor and Political Discourse in Latin Historiography
8 Dunstan Lowe: Loud and Proud: The Voice of the praeco in Roman Love-Elegy
9 Stephen Harrison: Hidden Voices: Homoerotic Colour in Horace's Odes
10 G. O. Hutchinson: On Not Being Beautiful
11 Vassiliki Panoussi: From Adultery to Incest: Messalina and Agrippina as Sexual Aggressors in Tacitus' Annals
12 Shadi Bartsch: The Aeneid as 'Weaker Text' and Fulgentius' Radical Hermeneutics
13 Philip Hardie: Cowherds and Saints: Paulinus of Nola Carmen 18
General Index
Index Locorum

About the author: 

Sebastian Matzner is Lecturer in Comparative Literature at King's College London. His research focuses on interactions between ancient and modern literature and thought, especially in the fields of poetics and rhetoric, literary and critical theory, history of sexualities, LGBTQ studies, and traditions of classicism. He has published several articles and book chapters in these fields and is the author of Rethinking Metonymy: Literary Theory and Poetic Practice from Pindar to Jakobson (OUP, 2016) as well as co-editor of a forthcoming volume entitled Breaking and Entering: Metalepsis in Classical Literature (with Gail Trimble).; Stephen Harrison is Professor of Latin Literature at the University of Oxford, and Fellow and Tutor in Classics at Corpus Christi College. His main research and teaching interests are in Latin literature and its reception. He has written monographs on Vergil, Horace, and Apuleius, and has edited, co-edited, or co-authored more than twenty books on Vergil, Horace, the Roman novel, Classics and literary theory, and Latin literature in general, as well as on the reception of classical literature. His recent publications include Victorian Horace: Classics and Class (Bloomsbury, 2017) and a commentary on Horace Odes 2 (CUP, 2017).

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