the erotic elegy



Preface to the book “Roman Elegy: Construction and Effect”

Vbi love, ibi oculi
“Mariquita, give me the pito, in your pito is infinity” (Drummond, “Toada do Amor”, some poetry).

In this incisive book, Paulo Martins denaturalizes the expressivist criteria for interpreting the erotic elegy of the Latin poet Propércio current at the University, where it is still read. They are indifferent to the historicity of the technical precepts of his invention as poetic fiction. Paulo states that, naive or not, indifference is an ethnocentric practice.

It universalizes the modern way of defining and consuming poetry as literature and imagines that the Roman passions of the poems are contemporary scares that, when printed, express the author's subjectivity. The rhetorical specification of the “erotic elegy” genre makes the poems appear as a practical formality irreducible to the psychological intentions of the interpreters anachronistically attributed to the man Propertius.

As a poetic genre, Roman erotic elegy is rhetorically invented as a fictitious enunciation of a personal pronoun, ego. It is the non-substantial “I” of a poetic type that imitates Greek and Alexandrian discourses while recomposing, in each poem, the diction that specifies the adequacy of its style to the commonplaces that the genre prescribes to invent and adorn the voice of its author. ethos, character, driven by pâthe, affections.

In this case, the style is not the man Propércio, but the addressee: the ear of the author. With great precision, Paulo remakes the rhetorical devices mobilized in the acts of poetic invention of the type, reading the poems as artifacts in which the enunciator communicates to the addressee rs e appropriation of a Roman and poetic imaginary of love. The act that invents them is not only mimetic or a plausible imitation of discourses about the body, sex and love relevant in the poet's Roman present, but also evaluative, constituting in style the precepts of the adequate reception of his imitation of the passions, that is, showing itself to the addressee also as a precept applied to dramatize love topics.

Propertius invents metaphors as elocutive variations of the norms that regulate the speeches of Roman life; with that, he imitates the opinions about love that were considered true in the semantic field of his time, in order to confront and debate them in the scene of the poems as conflicts of love. Simultaneously, his enunciation makes reference to his own act, staging, in style, the appropriate position from which the recipient must receive the poem in order to understand it also as a communication of the collective experience of the technical precepts applied to its invention and elocution.

Affirming the good artificiality of the artifact, Paulo refuses the unconditioned romantic of the readings that make free associations with the pathetic scene of the poems. He claims that, in order to read them poetically, the freedom of imagination of the 2008 reader must be subordinated to his technical precepts. Taking account of them as a dynamic interaction between the poet and his audience, he shows that the poems dramatize customary patterns of a collective experience, We, usual, refracting them in verses shaped by asymmetrically shared precepts.

Evidently, knowledge of these technical precepts is not given only by the poem. It also depends on knowledge of the poet's contemporary treatises on rhetoric, philosophy, ethics, in addition to the conventions of Greek, Alexandrian and Roman lyric poetry. With great familiarity, Paulo mobilizes them when dealing with particular poems. The rhetorical contextualization of their lexicon, syntax and semantics presupposes categories, concepts, classifications, schemes, norms, etc. that refer the reader to their implicit symbolic systems – such as the precepts of erotic elegy sought in the poetry of Greek and Alexandrian poets, such as Mimnermus and Callimachus, emulated by Propertius.

As in any poem, the erotic elegy establishes paradigmatic relationships with the poetic versions it quotes and transforms, suggesting new associations to the addressee. Given the temporal and semantic gap that separates Propertius from his eventual current reader, probably many remain unknown. But the meaning and meaning of words and verses continue to result from a hypothesis made by the reader through procedures of selection, equivalence, reduction, translation and contextualization of them in the poetic sequence. By definition, readings of Propertius' poetry are variable; but, in order to read it poetically, the reader must always establish the basic structure of the genre, since it is precisely this that allows effective communication between the act of invention and the practice of its reading.

The reading of Propércio's poetry presupposes, like others, that the reader is capable of historicizing its symbolic artifice and, with that, is also capable of relativizing the contemporary assumptions that shape its reading, since Propércio's poetry is not literature and the romantic imagery is not universal. In other words, to read Propertius effectively, the reader must be able to put himself between parentheses, relativizing his modern criteria for reading literature and his particular criteria for reading fiction psychologically. But without stopping there, because he must above all be able to remake the rhetorical ordering of the pretense of “Roman reality” effected by the poems.

In Propertius's erotic elegy, Paul demonstrates at length, the verb to love is rhetorically conjugated in impersonal forms of the person drawn from the collective experience of Rome. They model the fiction of discursive people as types of etopeia, the epideictic character portrait. Types inhabit a proper name and make a being of its artifice. Ego, says the elegiac persona, constituting in the act the Tu from an interlocutor, Cynthia. In the fictitious communication of types composed of a ethos or main character and ethe secondary, the ego speaks, with complete stylistic sincerity, never psychological.

In Rome, we learn from Paul, the passions are in nature; but when they are poetic passions - feigned passions or fictitious passions - they are not natural and informal, but affections artificially invented to effect the fides, the believable and decorous credibility of the genre: plus in amore valet Mimnermi versus Homer, “in love the verse of Mimnermo is worth more than Homer”, says the ego. fides Propertius' erotica is an emulation of Callimachus.

Made as an “etiological elegy” of ethical and pathetic affections in the mollis versus, opposite to free of the epic, makes Propertius, according to Quintilian, a poet blandus, who works the same elegiac topics worked by other poets with a different elocution, for example, from the elocution of Catullus, which is cultus, and of Ovid, lascivus. In this case, the fantasy of the poet Propércio performs the evident or the visualization of aspects that make the recipient's ear see the portraits of the ego pathetic and Cynthia, docta puella like Pallas, whore like Venus, petrifying like Gorgon, infernal like Hecate, according to the variation of the ethe applied to the commonplaces of his body filled with words.

In Rome, the rule of civil order of characters is the law of the ethos, domus, where he and she, the couple animated by ethe natural, thoughtfully virtuous, follows nature. O ego elegiac finds no place in the familiarity of domus for the ecstasy of affections in the fecund stasis of marriage. Vbi love, ibi oculi: talks about what he claims to see, while desiring Cíntia. His type body suffers the affects of love in speech. And she makes them visible in the conventionally proper place for her detachment, the poem. So Paul does not interpret the psychology of a substantial who; he is concerned with what, the qualities and intensities, which constitute the character of the type, the ego which dramatizes his visions of Cynthia.

Paulo does not want to reproduce the small scene of the psychological intentions of the interpreters, movingly mistaken by the lack of what to say when they recognize that, in the poem, sex collides with the lack of language because, poetically, the ego it only has the language of jouissance of the other, the puella, glimpsing it to pieces in the waste she leaves behind. Propércio invents Cynthia with places that always make her out of the place that would set her character. Soon, the ego it cannot satisfy itself, because it is only from it that the promise, always displaced and postponed, of jouissance comes.

Propertius' poetry is a pretense of affection, fiction da effigy do ego: not the supposedly profound of contents so profound that they only have a romantically fragmented form, but the rhetorical, of rs and appropriation, which are technically applied as the heads and tails of the coin of the ethical-pathetic exchanges of the Eros.

So, Cynthia: what is it? She is pieces of epideictic portraits, remnants of a body as praised as it is reviled, promised flesh and continual deceptions of her giving herself away under silks and perfumes: always a woman, that is, very logically crazy and concessive. Why not love the effigy of a man, no matter what? - O ego says that's what she thinks, if Cynthia thinks so. It doesn't matter, that's just the division of the ethos do ego in the elegy: to be just one, any and all, among all males, and not be the One in her and with her. Always falling short of what she unknowingly promises, a full male ego in spite of disappointed contemplation. Are they green? After all, what does he want when he keeps talking about what he can't have?

What he wants are her signs, what he wants are Cynthia's signs, because that is, perhaps, the love of a man in the elegy: the signs of love, where he foresees and regrets what never happens.

Propertius is magister amoris, master of love. Being a master, his elegy is amusing, because it entertains: lamenting what has always been lost in the formula of dialogue ego et tu it has much of the playful irony, for example, of an Aristophanes: love is a comic disease. Game of meticulous, meticulous and tormented observation, of the smallest thousand little pieces where Cíntia becomes a sign and escapes, cruel, tougher than a Hyrcanian tiger, precisely because she was always so cordially giving, puella, surrendering to deny herself in words for where the ego sees it escape and flow like illa, that one, there, always somewhere else, always sleeping wrapped around another man, always with another one, the wretched one, never here and now, what an impossible, unattainable thing, rare bird.

The pathetic intensity of Catullus occurs in Propertius – for example, when he says: Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse de me requiris. Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.

It is not the psychology of the man Propertius, but the symbolic structure. For this very reason, the emulation of this poetic custom constitutes the delectation girlfriend, which had poignant Christian variations on the Provencal poetry of coyta, the love sickness of the pain of the horn that conjugates the verb amar in compound time, I have loved. In it, as Deleuze evidenced, the past participle beloved corresponds to the object of desire, illa, given as lost in the frozen images reiterated by the time desiring, the present tense of contemplating the impossibility of union with him as One, which feeds back the forced desire in the words. In the present/past interval, the memory of the ego is figured as the active synthesis that selects Cíntia’s remains, contemplating them melancholy, that is, furiously, as indications where her affections, anger, impotence, resentment, sadness, revenge, fear, disdain, spite are concentrated…

In erotic elegy, the ego he speaks in triplicate: about himself and his lover: “Cíntia was the first to capture me with her little eyes (...) then Love (...) taught me (...) to live without prudence”, as in the 1st. she elected. And on the other, the man who has her: "she already says she's not mine". As in elegy 16: "Now she lies wrapped in another's happy embrace." Paulo is lucid, he does not allow himself to be carried away by pathos do ego pathetic, coldly observing, as befits, the technique applied to fiction of his rages, the rhetorically formulated melancholies of an ego that always asserts, as in elegy i, 7, aliquid duram quaerimus in dominam, “we look for something in the tough owner”.

Love, it doesn't hurt to remember, is a fundamental disease in Rome too: pathos love, says Quintilian. It is not serious, but its effects are serious, as is shown by what is serious: Cupid is a blind boy, as you can see, because he is always a childish player who does not distinguish numbers on the dice he throws. But he launches them and wants to because he wants to unite ego and you and your accidents in that animal with two sides besides, which is very ugly, hideous, androgynous, my dear. The here and now of love never consoles. As another poet says, the One is what it is and what we should know: a crow's never. They say that the responsibility lies with father Jupiter. But Paulo demonstrates precisely that this is not true, making the reader know, as someone else who dealt with the Other says, that he must not involve the royal father in these obscenities of the law.

*John Adolfo Hansen is a retired senior professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Sixteenth-century sharpnesses – Collected work, vol 1 (Edusp).


Paulo Martins Roman Elegy. Construction and Effect. Sao Paulo, Humanitas.


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