Contemporary critiques and modern criticism of Roman elegiac poetry and its distinctly transgressive lifestyle align in casting its practitioner on the outside of Roman cultural values. It is a notion that has crystalized in the topos of erotic exclusion and the figure of the exclusus amator doomed to suffer it, which have become both the indelible image and the governing metaphor of the genre of Roman elegy as a whole. This project amplifies the conversation around the exclusion of elegy and its practitioners from insider status—from both the bedroom of the beloved and the theater of Roman cultural value—with a consideration of how elegy fashions its own inclusion. Through readings of the elegies of Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid (the Amores), I consider how each harnesses the complementary topos of erotic inclusion to counter the cultural devaluation of the elegiac craft. I approach this issue through a study of two overarching themes, both anchored in the notion that the elegiac amator is categorically exclusus: the conception of love as lacking in substance and the conception of love as a waste of time, whose development I chart in two respective sections. Part I, In Venere Veritas, addresses the assessment that erotic love is a delusion that cannot survive an encounter with the beloved, tracing instances in elegy of the poet-lover shown in the company of his mistress and discussing the ways in which such episodes harness the state of inclusion to demonstrate the validity of passionate love—and the viability of elegiac poetics along with it. Part II, Operosus in Otio, turns to the charge that love and its poetry are idle and indolent. Against this accusation, I position the elegists’ own depictions of love as a form of personal industriousness through their representations of erotic activity in terms of lucubratio, the practice of working during the off-hours of the night, which challenges the devaluation of the erotic-poetic undertaking as an exercise incompatible with Roman mores.




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