How do we even think about the Roman elegist Propertius in light of Augustus, Rome’s first emperor, whose relationship has been the subject of much controversy? Propertius’ family lost its estate and status, and his region suffered terrible reprisals, as punishment for having been loyal to Mark Antony against the future ruler Augustus, and the poet’s resentment is evident in his work, despite the generous patronage of one of Augustus’ chief advisors. But his poetry is more subtle and complex than simple protest, and it evolved into further complexities as Augustus solidified his hold on Rome and Roman imperial holdings. How do elegy’s generic focuses on gender, social class, poetry, politics, power, and sex allow Propertius to work through his attitudes toward his nation and the ways it changed under monarchy? The talk will also consider the way Propertius’ attitudes toward Augustus and the Augustan settlement have been received in different periods, with some focus on the problems of artistic freedom in autocratic regimes.

This lecture will be delivered by Sharon James, Professor of Classics and adjunct member of both Comparative Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her areas of scholarly specialization are Latin poetry, women and gender in antiquity (particularly women in Rome), New Comedy, and Italian epic. Her book, Learned Girls and Male Persuasion: Gender and Reading in Roman Love Elegy (University of California Press, 2003), examines the arguments of Roman elegy from the perspective of its preferred love object, the docta puella. One of her current projects is an edited volume of essays on the Roman elegist Propertius, Golden Cynthia: Essays on Propertius by and for Barbara Flaschenriem (University of Michigan Press).