First-Person Poetry

Kathleen Mccarthy

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

First-Person Poetry


Roman first-person poetry, like its Greek predecessors, is much more likely than modern western poetry to exhibit a robust and well-defined ‘context of utterance’. Lowell Edmunds maintains that a speech act cannot be both an object of representation in the poem and the poem itself, while W. R. argues that the represented speech act is a conduit through which a quasi-social speech act between author and reader takes place. This debate involves historical questions as well, since the context of utterance is the most obvious feature of Rome's inheritance from the Greek literary tradition. This article describes the three major genres of first-person poetry in light of the way they deploy the context of utterance: elegy, lyric, and satire. It shows that the characteristic effects of each genre, including the distinctive way it positions its speaker in relation to the poet, are generated by the genre's deployment of the three primary features which together make up the context of utterance: speaker, addressee, and setting.

Keywords: Rome; first-person poetry; elegy; lyric; satire; context of utterance; speaker; addressee; setting; speech act

Article.  7216 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Poetry

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