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Title: Death and the elegist : Latin love poetry and the culture of the grave
Author: Houghton, L. B. T.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2006
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This thesis examines the treatment of death ritual, burial practice and the afterlife in the corpus of Latin elegy, in the light of what can be provisionally reconstructed of contemporary Roman customs and attitudes regarding death and commemoration. Through close readings of particular passages from Propertius, Tibullus, Ovid and ‘Lygdamus’, certain general tendencies in the elegists’ descriptions of their own and other characters’ demises are identified and set within the context of the genre’s overall development. In this way, the poets’ use of material relating to death, burial and beyond is shown to be an indispensable vehicle for their literary, social and political self-definition. After an introduction reflecting on previous scholarly approaches to the subject and discussing some possible explanations for the popularity of the death motif in elegy, the first main chapter deals with elegiac explorations of the afterlife, setting the elegists’ accounts of their own and others’ posthumous activity in the underworld against ways of visualising the hereafter current at the time. Beginning with Tibullus’ influential and innovatory diptych at 1.3.57-82, we see visions of the next world used programmatically to define and reinforce the earthy ‘life of love’. The next chapter considers the theme of the funeral, in which the elegists’ presentations of their preferred pompae are read as a distillation of their distinctive themes and terminology; in many cases, the details of a character’s funeral reflect and reward his or her performance on the stage of elegy. The final section, devoted to elegiac tombs, analyses the site, form and treatment desired by the poets’ personae for their monuments (and those of other characters), comparing evidence from surviving Roman memorials and inscriptions. Points of particular interest include scenes of shipwreck and the notion of the sea as tomb, and elegiac epitaphs, which crystallise the essential elements of the lover-poet’s experience into memorable lapidary formulae. A brief epilogue summarises the study’s wider implications for the process of elegiac self-fashioning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available