Martial the Book Poet: Contextu(r)alising the Flavian Poetry Book
Hayes, Sam Alexander
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
To enable publication of research.
This thesis explores how the reader is invited to read the books of Martial’s Epigrams, arguing that the epigrammatist has arranged the poems in his libelli in a specific order that rewards a sequential reading of the text from start to finish. Instead of viewing Martial as an anthologist who collated a series of occasional poems for their later publication, the thesis demonstrates that the poet showed awareness of his epigrams’ position within a larger ‘contexture’, and that he primes the reader throughout the Epigrams to envisage the books as thematically unified wholes. By viewing the Epigrams as a text to be read from beginning to end, rather than a text to be excerpted and anthologised, one can read each epigram in the wider context of its book, and better appreciate that book’s structural unity. Chapter one introduces the issues at stake in how one reads a book of epigrams, and provides the thesis’ methodological approach. Special attention is paid to the phenomenology of reading as a hermeneutic act, drawing together approaches to the Epigrams from classical scholarship as well as from reception and comic book theories to detail the method of ‘cumulative reading’ employed in the thesis. The second chapter then examines how Martial characterises the lector studiosus in his text, and how this depicted reader acts as a model for the actual reader to follow in their own sequential reading of the Epigrams. Chapter three focuses on Epigrams 7, demonstrating that the opening poems of the book establish the emperor Domitian as a thematic centrepiece around whom the rest of the book’s themes cluster. The fourth chapter also examines book 7, demonstrating how two different uses of watery motifs develop their individual thematic unity across the book, while also linking themselves back to the book’s opening imperial cycle to craft an overarching structural unity for the libellus. Chapter five then gives an overview of the larger structure of the Epigrams, arguing that the paratextual prose prefaces in books 1, 2, 8, 9, and 12 reinforce the individuality of the books they precede as well as establishing their own place within the wider corpus. Overall, this thesis puts the epigrammatic libellus back into the context of late first century AD book culture, emphasising that Martial paid attention not only to his epigrams’ position within their own books, but also their place within the wider corpus.
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)
PhD in Classics