Visuality, art and ecphrasis in the Monobiblos of Propertius
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In this thesis I argue that the conflation of puella, art and godhead in Propertius 2.31 and the succeeding 2.32 strongly impacts upon the opening book, the Monobiblos, of the same author. The dynamic of vision, the poet’s pictorial imagination, and the feminised, subservient stance of the elegiac lover are all well documented strains of Propertian elegy, but have generally been treated as independent areas of study. By emphasising vision as the key factor that inextricably binds lover and beloved, confusing their roles within the text, I argue that the poems of the Monobiblos respond both to contemporary effects in visual art within the changing fashions in wall painting, and a literary tradition of visuality. In the second half of this thesis I show how Propertius draws on stylistic effects in late Second and early Third Style wall painting and so provides a poetic response to viewing contemporary art. Yet not only does his poetry, like wall painting, aim to involve the reader visually but also requires the reader’s participation in the dynamic verbal artefact he creates. Just as the emerging imperial ideology was being increasingly impressed upon the Roman citizenry through the power of imagery, so this text creates a multifaceted narrative that enables a constantly shifting accessibility of viewpoint across traditional gender lines. As a consequence, the imbrication of erotic and poetic concerns highlights the tension between art and literature in this text.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy