Writing down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry

Writing down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry

Writing down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry

Writing down Rome: Satire, Comedy, and Other Offences in Latin Poetry

Synopsis

Taking particular plays and poems from Roman comic theatre and the genre of Latin satire, this book finds Rome sending up Roman culture - making a mess of drama, jesting at rustic gaucherie, caricaturing the cult of masculine aggression. Writing Down Rome explores the robust poetic of self-denigration. Henderson's essays celebrate the energetic self-mockery that powers much of Roman poetry. They range widely over comedy, lyric, bucolic, and, in particular, the Roman speciality of satire.

Excerpt

I'm a travelin' man 'n' made a lot of stops all over the world and in every port I own the heart of at least one lovely girl.

(Jerry Fuller, Travelin' Man)

Three chapters of this book poke into crevices of postRepublican/pre-Imperial Rome -- into 'triumviral' poetry. Chapter 5 fast forwards to 23 and Horace's inauguration of the Augustan principate in his chef d'oeuvre, Odes I-III; leaving lyric for the hexameters that occupy the second half of the book, Chapter 6 re-winds to the publication in the early 30s of Virgil's first collection, the bucolic poetry of the Eclogues. in Part iii, we will plunge into the revolutionary period between the coup of Julius Caesar and the installation of Caesar Augustus (49-23) once more, via a poem from Horace's first publication, Satires I (Chapter 8), from the mid-30s. Virgil and Horace left for Roman and Western posterity a paradigm for the poet's career (§ 20). Unlike Catullus, (or the one-

Creation Lucretius; or short-lived/short-winded Persius: Chapter 9), these little boys do grow up. Virgil wrote ever-grander hexameter poems as he moved from self-marginalized obliquity outside to take, forever, the central role in Latin literature, putting Rome into Augustan words in the monumental Aeneid. One Horace did the equivalent: from the Satires, an ear-full of mock-messy gossip on the corner; then from the Epistles, a peep into the networking of cultural power around the court, culminating in a leaked memo for the palace, and, ultimately, a public memoir on Good Practice in Writing (Ars poetica). But a second Horace ran a parallel career in lyric, from the Epodes' iambic acerbity, through virtuoso performance in the Odes across the gamut of moods, rhetorics, and authenticities, to the ultimate laureate Song for a New Age (Carmen saeculare). Politics and poetics speak their lines through bio-scripts . . .

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