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Barbara K. Gold

Subject Classics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444330373.2012.00004.x


There are two amazing things about Roman love elegy. One is that the entire genre (or subgenre) existed for only about 40 years. The other is that elegy nonetheless had an extraordinary and long-lived influence on subsequent art and literature (see Part VII [articles by Davis, Uden, Parker and Hooley] of this volume for elegy's literary Nachleben; for art, see Fredrick, Leach, Valladares and Welch in this volume). Many questions persist about this subgenre (of lyric poetry), and these questions will be taken up in depth by the contributors to the volume. First, when we speak of Roman love elegy, what exactly do we mean? The narrowest and most basic defining characteristic of elegy is poetry written in the elegiac meter, couplets formed of one hexameter and one pentameter (or one hexameter and two hemiepes; see Morgan in this volume). If we are trying to define love elegy in particular, we can add the following: Roman love elegy was a book-length collection of poems; these poems were usually written in the first person; and many of these poems were written to or about a lover who is addressed by a specific name that is a poetic pseudonym (so Gallus' Lycoris, Tibullus' Delia, Propertius' Cynthia, Ovid's Corinna). Further, most of the love affairs recounted in the poetry are fraught with difficulty or end badly. And finally, Roman elegiac poetry, while purporting to be about an external ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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