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Non aliena tamen: the erotics and poetics of narcissistic sadomasochism in Propertius 1.15.

Recent scholars of Propertius and Roman elegy have paid special attention to gender role reversal, (1) focusing on whether the amator's claim of servitiurm amoris represents genuine subservience or is a pose calculated to keep him in the dominant position as lover or poet. (2) Many scholars have argued that the Propertian amator remains dominant in both respects. On the erotic front, the amator never acknowledges any subjectivity on Cynthia's part; instead, he treats her either as a debased or idealized object or as a helpless victim or creature of uncontrolled, destructive passion, that is, as a fantasy rather than as a real woman. (3) As poet, he maintains dominance insofar as, being the one with the pen, he retains complete control over how "Cynthia" is represented. Whatever erotic role she is given, she is still just a construction representing ideas he wants to write about, especially themes and aspects of his own poetry. (4) He presents her with no stable character, but alters her behavior and significa nce according to whatever literary point he wishes to make. (5)

This correction of the longstanding scholarly view of Propertius as an autobiographer candidly recounting his sufferings at the hands of a fickle mistress has been salutary. But by insisting on such strict binaries as dominance/subservience, masculine/feminine, and literary textuality/representation, this corrective also risks ignoring, or at least obscuring, important and complex dimensions of Propertius's explorations of erotic subjectivity which touch on both Cynthia and the amator. It would be regrettable if recent emphasis on the literary qualities of Propertius's poems, for all its value in alerting us to what we might miss when reading the poems as straightforward autobiographical confessions, were to foreclose entirely an interpretation of the poems as mimeses. (6) There is no reason why the persons the poems represent should not be regarded as characters in a fictional world with all the "reality" we ordinarily assign to such characters through conventional suspension of disbelief--no more than such a mimetic reading should preclude other interpretive strategies. True, the character "Propertius" presents himself as composing autobiographically, but there is a crucial difference between that character and Propertius the empirical author. The latter may identify with the former, but he may also assume a stance of ironic distance. Indeed, Propertius often seems to hold the amator's erotic and poetic posturing up to keen, if in some ways also sympathetic, critical scrutiny. Propertius is writing about a poet in love; but that character is not just writing about his affair, he is actually living it. Whereas Propertius as empirical author can control everything in his fictional creation, the amator cannot control everything in the world he writes about, since he is a part of it. (7) He may wield a pen, but the world he lives in is bigger than the world he can represent, let alone control. His frustrations with that world and with Cynthia especially, which make up so large a part of what he wants to write about , mainly arise from his confrontation with this fact.

Since Cynthia herself has a separate existence in the fictional world that Propertius has created, she can assume whatever subjectivity he sees fit to represent for her: whether directly, as in her speech in 1.3, or indirectly, through the amator's observations and interpretations of her behavior. Of course, the amator is not necessarily a reliable narrator, but like any author, Propertius can tip us off to his narrator's unreliability by revealing bias, exaggeration, and other peculiarities of his speech and manner--indeed, by exposing his fantasies for what they are. Although Propertius shows us Cynthia only through the amator's eyes, he can nonetheless, by inviting us to look through and beyond the amator's presentation of her, provide some clue as to what her subjectivity might be.

As for Cynthia's inconsistency, it is important to observe that it is not only she but also the amator who is often inconsistent, and not just from one poem to another but within a given poem. The amator may often be controlling and even abusive, but just as often he slips into a passive mode that can hardly be seen as strictly a technique of dominance; indeed, he often seems to be the victim of his own fantasies. Such inconsistency of both characters may be due to Propertius's use of them to make points about poetry and other topics like contemporary social and political conditions. But this inconsistency is also, I would argue, the result of a fascination with exploring for their own sake psychoerotic positions whose interest is due especially to their complexity and, in fact, contradictions.

In what follows I want to take up a poem, 1.15, that thus far has not figured prominently in the debate on gender roles in Propertius. (8) I will argue that this poem portrays a speaker whose erotic subjectivity oscillates between complementary poles of domination and submission and seeks as its ideal object a mistress who will share this alternation between desiring modes. (9) A fundamental part of my argument is seeing that the dynamics of the speaker's desire--which, for the sake of convenience, I will call his model of desire--exhibit a number of features of what modern clinical psychology would term narcissistic sadomasochism. One of those features is fantasy. But fantasy in narcissistic sadomasochism is not just a strategy of mastery; it is a compulsion to play a role that controls the subject as much as the subject controls it. Indeed, it drives the alternation between sadistic and masochistic roles. Moreover, since the speaker's desire in 1.15 requires an object that will mirror narcissistically his o wn alternation between dominant and submissive roles, his major effort in the poem is not simply to gain control over Cynthia, but also to get her to play as fully as possible into both of his desiring modes. I will argue that there are indications Cynthia does respond favorably to that effort, albeit with much of the same ambiguity that the speaker himself brings to his encounter with her. Though brief and indirect, these indications point to a possible subjectivity for Cynthia within the overall fictional scenario that Propertius represents; however, as I will also argue, in the end the speaker's model of desire is not well suited to deliver satisfaction to either party. As both switch back and forth between "masculine" dominance and "feminine" subservience, role reversal, far from locating either party clearly on one side or the other, blurs not just gender distinctions but interpersonal boundaries themselves in a way that tends to frustration rather than fulfillment. In tracing the complexities of these e rotic interactions I will use the work of the Freudian theorists Jessica Benjamin and Jean Laplanche to provide essential background on the narcissistic and sadomasochistic dynamics involved. (10)

The place of fantasy and role playing in the speaker's model of desire becomes fully evident only as the poem unfolds, but there are hints of both from the outset and it is important to pick up on them. That these are only hints has to do with the notorious obscurity of the circumstances motivating the poem's scenario. In the first couplet, the speaker appears to contrast the harsh consequences (dura), which he says he has often feared coming from Cynthia's fickleness (levitas), with some new act of hers that he deems outright betrayal (perfidia): saepe ego multa tuae levitatis dura timebam, / hac tamen excepta, Cynthia, perfidia ("I have often feared no end of suffering from your fickleness, / but never this, Cynthia, never such a betrayal as this," 1-2). (11) Commentators usually pass quickly over this couplet to look in the following lines for an explanation of what Cynthia has done to deserve this charge of perfidia. (12) The most frequent explanation is that she has given an exceptionally offensive displ ay of levitas. Not only has she failed to come quickly to the speaker at a time when he was in grave danger, but what is more, the reason she has failed to come is that her mind has been on another man:
aspice me quanto rapiat fortuna periclo!
 tu tamen in nostro lenta timore venis.
et potes hesternos manibus componere crinis
 et longa faciem quaerere desidia,
nec minus Eois pectus variare lapillis,
 ut formosa novo quae parat ire viro. (3-8)
Look into what great danger fortune has swept me up!
  You, however, are slow to come in my time of fear.
Not only that, you can fix the hairdo that got messed
 up last night
  and sit for hours doing your makeup,
you can even dress up in your finest Oriental jewelry,
  like a woman who is getting ready to go meet a new lover.

The critical problem thus becomes identifying the special danger the speaker claims to be in. Two possibilities have long dominated the discussion of this question: the periclum is an illness, or a sea voyage the speaker is about to undertake. (13) The problem, though, appears rather different if we ask whether the speaker has not already indicated in the opening couplet the "danger" he sees himself facing. Once the question has been put this way, a candidate for that danger lies ready to hand: the dura he said he feared in line 1. Indeed, several scholars have argued recently that periclo refers to his ongoing fear of the pain--the dura--that his love for Cynthia may cause him. (14) Further, the specific object of that fear is not necessarily that she might take another lover. As Bennett 30-37 persuasively argues, the perfidia of line 2 does not necessarily mean "infidelity"; rather, it means "falseness, dissembling--or plain lying" and refers (here as well as later in line 34) to any failure on Cynthia's pa rt to live fully up to whatever degree of devotion she may have promised or the speaker expected of her. The point at issue, in Bennett's words, is "how loving women who are not lying actually behave" (38), while the danger that occupies the speaker's mind is simply his constant fear of the pain he might suffer should Cynthia fail to demonstrate convincingly enough the devotion he wants to see. (15)

But where does this leave the speaker's allegation of perfidia? The answer lies in recognizing that despite the strong adversative hac tamen that introduces perfidia, no contrast actually exists in the opening couplet between Cynthia's levitas and some new perfidia of hers. There is, however, another contrast in these lines, that between Cynthia's levitas and the dura suffered by the speaker, and it is most important. The Propertian amator, along with the other elegiac lovers, regularly applies the word dura to his "cruel" mistress; but he also often uses it to refer to the effect of that cruelty on him. (16) The present context, in which the speaker goes on immediately to detail the fear and misfortune into which his love of Cynthia has plunged him, suggests that the genitive in the collocation tuae levitatis dura should be read not only descriptively, but objectively. The phrase will then contrast Cynthia's "lightness" (meaning both "lack of concern or devotion" and "heedlessness") with what the speaker cla ims to fear as its result, "hardship" for him (connoting, in relation to Cynthia's heedlessness, "real consequences to he borne"). (17) As I will argue below, this contrast will drive the emotional climax of the poem, when the speaker contrasts his cura (31) for Cynthia--which causes him to take things so hard--with what he sees in her behavior. Even if she incurs something durius (28)--in the form of requital from the gods for her heedless oaths (periuria, 25)-- that will be nothing compared to what he will suffer from seeing such harm come to her (27). What is crucial in the present context is that the juxtaposition of levitatis and dura places these antithetical connotations in the most emphatic opposition. It is not just that Cynthia's levitas conveys, at least to the speaker, a heedlessness of the consequences of her behavior; it is even more that things can be dura only for one to whom such behavior does have consequences. The speaker thus implies that whereas Cynthia's ongoing lack of concern for him h as caused her no discomfort, the severity of the consequences he fears on her account depends directly on the strength of his concern for her. (18) After all, she can spend hours at her toilette while he nearly dies of frustration and anxiety waiting for her. But this obsession with her apparent lack of devotion reveals an extreme view of such matters on his part: he sees a betrayal of promises wherever she seems to show anything less than what he considers perfect devotion. Levitas is always perfidia to him.

Still, we are left with the question of why the speaker seizes on just this instance of Cynthia's levitas to speak up. Propertius provides no certain grounds within the text for an answer to this question, a fact that suggests the speaker's choice of this occasion is arbitrary. Cynthia is slow to arrive, but that might be any time the speaker was expecting her. Indeed, timore (4) echoes the recurrent fears expressed by the imperfect timebam in line 1. True, by using words like perfidia and periclo the speaker seems to exaggerate the importance of this occasion, but the arbitrariness of his choice to speak up now suggests that he would use such exaggerated language to refer to Cynthia's behavior--and his reaction--on any occasion. Instead of "Why this time?" the question should be "Why such exaggeration?" (19)

Propertius has already signaled the answer: the speaker's obsessive imagination, which sees perfidia in the slightest hint of levitas. In lines 5-8, Propertius adds corroborating evidence. Cynthia's appearance need not be seen as proof of infidelity or even lack of concern for the speaker. It could just as readily signify mere self-indulgence, or perhaps some miscommunication between the two. Only in fine 8 does the speaker introduce the suspicion, as though it were an afterthought inspired by his reaction to Cynthia's appearance, that she may have been dressing up for someone else. Such a chain of thinking strongly suggests fantasy at work, in particular a type of fantasy that sees another person in a certain way and reads the worst implications into any behavior that does not correspond.

Fantasy springs forth full-blown in the models of devotion that the speaker proposes for Cynthia in lines 9-24. (20) He conjures up these mythic ideals with the same alacrity with which he concluded that Cynthia's smart appearance must mean the worst:
at non sic Ithaci digressu mota Calypso
 desertis olim fleverat aequoribus:                            10
multos illa dies incomptis maesta capillis
 sederat, iniusto multa locuta salo,
et quamvis numquam post haec visura, dolebat
 illa tamen, longae conscia laetitiae.                         14
nec sic Aesoniden rapientibus anxia ventis                     17
 Hypsipyle vacuo constitit in thalamo:                         18
Hypsipyle nullos post illos sensit amores,                     19
 ut semel Haemonio tabuit hospitio.                            20
Alphesiboea suos ulta est pro coniuge fratres,                 15
 sanguinis et cari vincula rupit amor.                         16
coniugis Evadne miseros delata per ignis                       21
 occidit, Argivae fama pudicitiae.
quarum nulla tuos potuit convertere mores,
 tu quoque uti fieres nobilis historia.

But that's not the way Calypso behaved once,
 when Ulysses left her stranded on the beach: she wept.
For days on end she grieved, let her hair hang loose,
 just sat complaining to the unjust sea,
and even though she was never going to see him again, still--
 that woman grieved, thinking about all the pleasure
  they had together.
That's not how Hypsipyle stood in her empty bridal
 chamber either,
 worrying about the winds that weresnatching Jason away:
Hypsipyle felt no other love after that one,
 once she had melted for the guest from Thessaly.
Alphesiboea killed her brothers to avenge her husband;
 her love broke even the priceless bonds of blood.
Evadne found her end on the sad pyre of her husband,
 died a glory of Argive purity.
None of those women could make you change your ways,
 so you too could be made into a famous story.

However comically exaggerated this appeal may be, it does seem to obtain some kind of success, for Cynthia apparently responds to it favorably between lines 24 and 25. The change of direction in the speaker's thoughts between these lines is so abrupt that scholars for a long time thought it must mark a major narrative lacuna, if not a break between two separate poems that a copyist had put together. (21) Recent commentators, though, have not only regarded 1.15 as a complete poem but generally agree that Cynthia is to be understood as delivering a protestation of her devotion in the pause between 24 and 25. The directness with which the speaker addresses her at 25-26 (desine jam revocare tuis periuria verbis, / Cynthia, et oblitos parce movere deos ["Don't start all over again mouthing your false oaths, / Cynthia; be careful not to stir up forgetful gods"]), along with calling her by name, referring to words of hers (tuis . . . verbis), and applying iam as if to something just said, suggests that she has inter rupted him, apparently to confirm the oaths he claims she has broken (revocare . . . periuria). (22)

Why the speaker cuts her off with a warning against further perjury is a question to which we will need to return. But first, I want to raise a question that is equally curious and important to my argument: Why should the speaker's catalogue of misery so impress Cynthia? Why does it not turn her off? What is the lure for her? Though the point is not often stressed, one of the most striking features of these mythical scenes-and this is a feature that must figure prominently in any interpretation of their function in the poem-is the pervasiveness in them of violence and suffering. Two of the heroines are abandoned to loneliness and despair. One commits a double murder to avenge her husband's slaying, and the other immolates herself on the pyre of her husband after he has been killed in battle. Word after word evokes the physical and mental torments the heroines must bear: fleverat (10), maesta (11), iniusto multa locuta salo (12), dolebat (13), conscia (14), anxia (17), nullos . . . sensit amores (19), tabuit ( 20), miseros (21), occidit (22). And not only do these women suffer, but nothing short of death suggests any end to their plight. Flaschenriem (1998: 50) points out that in the tableau of Ariadne's lament in Catullus 64, which Propertius's portrait of Calypso recalls, the presence of Bacchus is a reminder that the heroine's grief will soon be assuaged by a new love, but there is no hint that Calypso will ever gain respite. Likewise, the words nullos post illos sensit amores (19) imply that after Jason's departure, only sorrow will occupy Hypsipyle's heart and bridal chamber (vacuo . . . thalamo, 18).

Evadne ends her life because her grief is too strong to bear. (23) As for Alphesiboea, it is hard to think what life will be left to her after not only the murder of her husband but her own slaying of her brothers. The brutal word rupit (16) applies literally to the bonds of blood she burst, but it also has the mimetic effect of breaking the picture of this violent scene off at its frame: what life can be imagined beyond it? (24)

The speaker also does not hesitate to stress that cruelty is both a cause of the heroines' pain (desertis, 10; iniusto, 12; numquam . . . visura, 13; Aesoniden rapientibus . . ventis, 17) and, in one case, a consequence of it (ulta est, 15; san guinis et can vincula rupit, 16). (25) Odysseus and Jason's apparent callousness in abandoning their mistresses hints at a streak of sadism running through their behavior. Such heartlessness in Odysseus's case, especially, raises the question of just what the Iaetitia Calypso supposedly shared with him really means to the speaker. (26) Alcmaeon may represent another instance of cruelty, if at least we are to assume that Alphesiboea's brothers killed him because he had abandoned her, as attested in other versions of the myth. (27) As for Evadne, her husband's cruelty would not seem to be at issue. Indeed, by the time the speaker gets to her, his focus has shifted to the absolute subservience of the mistress who is ready to do anything to remain with her lover. Yet here we must recall that the speaker is using this example to try to compel Cynthia to just such extreme, self-abnegating devotion. What may have been voluntary for Evadne will be compulsory for her, and thus potentially a cruel imposition.

It has become a commonplace of the criticism of elegy that the long-suffering submissiveness of the heroines actually represents the amator's position. (28) The present speaker's complaints about Cynthia's negligence, which started him on his harangue about the proper show of devotion, certainly align him with the heroines. But looking at their plight from the point of view of their lovers' cruelty foregrounds the fact that if they are to be models for Cynthia, their lovers must to some degree stand in for the speaker. (29) His very complaints about Cynthia's behavior smack of cruelty, especially insofar as the fantasies that drive them lead him, as we have seen, to level all manner of accusation at her, right up to infidelity. Even more, to the extent that the speaker identifies himself with the male heroes of the catalogue, he conveys a warning that he too may abandon her? (30) A sadistic streak is thus as much a part of his posture toward her as masochistic submissiveness. But then the question raised abov e becomes even more curious: if the speaker is actually alerting her to his own cruelty, why, all the more, should she play along?

The answer most often given is that the speaker offers her the promise of becoming--or being made through exemplary behavior recorded in his poetry-as famous as the heroines of myth: a nobilis historia (24). Thus, his strategy is to show off his poetic skill as a way of inducing her to accept the fruit of that skill, namely, immortal renown. (31) But I believe his strategy contains a more seductive lure, indeed, one that takes its force from the very sadomasochism advertised in the mythical scenes. The work of Jessica Benjamin and Jean Laplanche offers a particularly useful framework for examining this lure, for they show that sadomasochistic desire can be powerfully attractive, even as it proves to be in other ways painful or frustrating. (32)

In The Bonds of Love, Benjamin argues that erotic domination and submission result from particular dynamics that commonly (though not inevitably) arise in the constitution of self and other as interrelated but differentiated individuals. (33) "Differentiation requires, ideally, the reciprocity of self and other, the balance of assertion [of self over other] and recognition [of the other]" (25). Such a balance is hard to achieve, though, because it requires both self and other to be able to sustain a contradictory, paradoxical tension between asserting the self and recognizing the other as an independent subject. "Establishing myself. . . means winning the recognition of the other, and this, in turn, means I must finally acknowledge the other as existing for himself and not just for me . . . " (36; original emphases). But it is often easier for the self to try to resolve this tension by either dominating the other (which also means denying recognition to the other) or submitting. "True independence means susta ining the essential tension [between] asserting the self and recognizing the other. Domination is the consequence of refusing this condition" (53).

What is important for our purposes here is the extraordinary power that fantasy takes on in these dynamics, especially the power to intensify one's sense of "reality." Benjamin argues that fantasy is a product of the narcissistic inwardness that plays a strong formative role in sadomasochism: "When things are not resolved 'outside,' between self and other, the interaction is transferred into the world of fantasy. . . . The drama of reversible violator and victim displaces the tension of interaction with the other. The drama now occurs within the omnipotence of mental life, the encapsulated sphere of the intrapsychic" (71). This failure to resolve things "outside" means that the self is cut off from the spontaneous give and take with the other that is crucial to building a sense of a reality existing beyond one's own mind. When the struggle between asserting the self and recognizing the other has a successful outcome and the other survives as an independent subject, "the distinction between [one's own] mental acts and what happens out there in 'reality' becomes more than a cognitive awareness; it becomes a felt experience. The distinction between my fantasy of you and you as a real person is the very essence of connection" (71). If the other simply caves in to the self, it fails to confront the self with the firm boundary needed to produce a sense of external reality through palpable connection. The self then falls over into the void left by this failed connection. But this leaves the self with a feeling of emptiness which it can only assuage by building, through fantasy, an illusion of its own omnipotence. If, conversely, the self is dominated by the other, the boundary between the two, and along with it the self's perception of an external reality, are just as effectively effaced. The self's sense of reality depends on experiencing its own independent existence as much as on experiencing the existence of the other.

Whether the self takes over or collapses into the other, it imposes its inner fantasy world on its interactions with the other. Benjamin explains: "In the absence of a differentiated sense of self and other, the vital sharing between separate minds is replaced by almost exclusively complementary relationships" (73). Since such "complementary relationships" are, in effect, scripts prefabricated to fit one another, they allow little room for spontaneity. (34) But spontaneity is an essential ingredient of a sense of reality, because it yields "hard" evidence of the existence of something outside one's own mental formations. For that reason, following the kind of script that drives sadomasochistic relations can feel "unreal," yet paradoxically, this very unreality can be experienced as more "real" than "ordinary" life. That is because the script replaces the reality-evoking energy of spontaneous interaction with an even more intense energy, one that gains much of its strength from its compulsory nature, from the way it lays sole claim to reality.

The sadomasochistic fantasy script also absorbs energy from the sheer insistence with which it imposes itself on both self and other. As Benjamin puts it, "[the sadomasochistic] relationship is initiated in order to reintroduce tension -- to counteract numbness with pain, to break encasement through violation . . . "(65-66). The sense of immediacy and urgency in such violation can make this kind of relationship seem more alive, freer, and more intensely "real" than relationships based on genuinely free, spontaneous interaction, which can easily seem boring in contrast. This intensity of sadomasochistic fantasy roles can promote an exhilarating illusion of freedom, evoking in turn a powerful sense of reality, even while those roles are actually imprisoning those who act them out in largely predetermined scripts. (35)

We can observe the creation of such a fantasy of intensified reality in the mind of the speaker of 1.15. Because Propertius, as I showed above, established the speaker's tendency toward fantasy in the opening lines of the poem, we now register the fantasy elements of the heroines' trials not just as outlandish exaggerations but as "realities," in the sense that they partake of effective existence inside the speaker's mind. (36) What is especially important is the way this fantasy world becomes more intense to him than empirical reality (it being understood that this "empirical reality" is the fictional one of the poem's world); in fact, it begins to dominate his mind. His imaginings about what Cynthia was up to in lines 5-8 lead into his even more robust fantasies in the catalogue of heroines of what he would like to see her do instead. These fantasies of ideal erotic devotion, which might otherwise have seemed nothing but poetic formulas or rhetorical emblems whose factitiousness could scarcely have escaped even him, are given credence as "realities," at least to him, by the tendency toward fantasy he has exhibited already. Thus, he immerses himself, at least for the moment, in a compelling "reality" of his own making. (37)

Such fantasies, however, not only possess the power to create an absorbing imaginative "reality" for their creator; they can also draw others into it. This provides an initial clue to the lure in the speaker's strategy of proposing the mythical heroines as models for Cynthia. In part, the lure is the sensation of intense emotional reality created by his immersion in these fantasies of extreme feeling, which fantasies can exert a strong attraction on Cynthia too as she listens to them.

It is especially in episodes like this that many recent critics have seen the elegiac lover, not as occupying a subservient position, but as asserting instead his power and indeed dominance in pursuit of his own passion. (38) I agree that the present speaker is pursuing his passion, and also trying to exert a kind of control; I would even add that the argument that the power and control both lie on his side is supported by the phrasing of quarum nulla tuos potuit convertere mores (23), which makes Cynthia an object of the persuasive force of the models he holds Out for her. But I also believe we have no good reason to doubt that Cynthia too gets caught up in the speaker's fantasy world -- and that she does so for the most part voluntarily -- as a result of her own subjective stance. The reason for this has to do with the sadomasochistic dynamics of the speaker's model of desire, with which Cynthia must enmesh herself to some extent so long as she is involved with him at all.

One insight from Benjamin's analysis of those dynamics is especially to the point here. Benjamin shows how situations of domination are typically not one-sided but involve, as I have suggested, both sides playing complementary roles. (39) Even more important, she explains how in many relationships the partners trade the roles of domination and submission back and forth, often with great ingenuity and complexity. (40) In explaining this phenomenon, Benjamin draws on the work of Laplanche, whose Life and Death in Psychoanalysis teases out some of the most radical implications of Freud's thinking about psychological boundaries and the interplay between self and other. Laplanche's reinterpretation of Freud's etiology of sadism (85-102) is especially relevant to our purposes here. In Freud's model sadism does not arise in a single movement. Rather, a primary aggressiveness is internalized as masochism, then sadism proper arises when this internal aggression is turned outward again. It is only the phase of internal ization--which enables the self to imagine the pain it can cause another and thus to conceive of the actual desire to hurt--that characterizes sadism proper. Laplanche's contribution is his demonstration that the phase of internalization, by invoking the imagination, not only revalues aggression but also brings it into the realm of sexual fantasy. Benjamin stresses the importance of this insight for an understanding of how the desire to hurt another is generated: "Through this internalization comes the ability to play both roles in fantasy, to experience vicariously the other's part, and so enjoy the act of violation" (69-70). But even Benjamin underestimates the importance in Laplanche's analysis of the fluidity of sexual fantasy, which can keep both masochistic and sadistic motives in play in the same self as it responds to different opportunities and challenges in the world outside. The ability to play both roles in fantasy readily translates into playing some combination of both in reality. (41)

These insights of Benjamin and Laplanche help explain how the speaker of 1.15 exhibits a desiring fantasy that alternates between equally powerful sadistic and masochistic urges. But they also help us see that, however meager the glimpse we get of Cynthia's subjectivity through her apparent speaking up to protest her devotion after line 24, her interactions with the speaker in general would realistically involve her own switching back and forth between the same desiring modes. Thus, the likely grounds of her involvement with him suggest that when she speaks up after line 24, she does so out of her own mirroring sadomasochistic position. (42)

But if Cynthia's words thus signal success for the speaker's current ploy, he would appear to be a lover who cannot stand success, for no sooner has he obtained this renewed assurance than he cuts Cynthia off to dismiss it. Most commentators, in keeping with the view that what the speaker is concerned about is Cynthia taking another lover, assume that he dismisses her new oaths because she has proved unfaithful so often that he feels he cannot trust her now. But if, as I have argued, his concern is actually that she show at all times the devotion he wants to see, then his reason for dismissing her new protestations may appear rather different. Indeed, it becomes possible to see that instead of simply dismissing what she says, he replies, in effect, "That's still not enough. Let me show you what real devotion sounds like!" And that is precisely what he does in lines 27-31 when he proceeds to outdo all the examples of devoted love he has just described by proffering himself as the ultimate model--or fantasy--of long-suffering devotion:
audax a nimium, nostro dolitura periclo,
 si quid forte tibi durius inciderit!
nulla prius vasto labentur flumina ponto,
 annus et inversas duxerit ante vices,
quam tua sub nostro mutetur pectore cura.

Ah! Far too reckless; you're going to suffer, and to my peril,
 if anything bad should happen to you!
Sooner will rivers cease to flow into the vast sea,
 sooner will the seasons of the year run in reverse,
than the pain of my love for you could be removed from my heart.

At first glance, the role the speaker lays out here may seem different from those he advocated in the mythical exempla. Whereas the point there may have seemed to be primarily how one should act on being abandoned by, or bereft of, one's lover, here the concern is one's reaction to any harm one's lover might suffer. But although abandonment or bereavement is common to all the heroines' tales, the point Alphesiboea and Evadne demonstrate is precisely how to respond to harm to one's lover--indeed, to the loved one's death. (43) Even Hypsipyle is shown worrying about what will happen to Jason "as the winds snatch him away" (Aesoniden rapientibus anxia ventis, 17).

Deciding what point the exempla are meant to lead up to is complicated by the fact that their correct order has long been a matter of dispute. The manuscripts have Calypso followed by Alphesiboea, Hypsipyle, and Evadne. But most editors since Lachmann have moved the Alphesiboea couplet either to the end (Lachmann) or between Hypsipyle and Evadne (Markland). on the ground that the sequence in the manuscripts interrupts the logical connection between the at non sic (9) that introduces Calypso and the nec sic (17) that introduces Hypsipyle. Recent editors have preferred Lachmann's transposition, seeing in Alphesiboea's murder of her brothers the most extreme of the heroines' acts of devotion. (44) But several scholars have defended the manuscripts' order by arguing (persuasively, in my opinion) that the Alphesiboea and Evadne exempla expand, indeed intensify, the points made by Calypso and Hypsipyle. As Allen argues, "Calypso's passive dolor, after Ulysses' voluntary exile from her island, pales in comparison wi th that violent dolor of Alphesiboea. So, also, Hypsipyle's refusal to love anybody after Jason is as nothing compared with Evadne's reaction to the loss of Capaneus ..." (45) If Evadne is thus meant to cap the sequence, the ultimate point of the catalogue does concern how one should respond to harm to one's lover, real or potential. Variations on this theme run through all three of the Alphesiboea, Hypsipyle, and Evadne episodes, wherever Alphesiboea fits in. But Evadne takes the crown: she shows that true devotion means finally to share as fully as possible in the loved one's fate, even unto death. (46) This accords with Allen's conclusion about the ordering principle linking Hypsipyle and Evadne, namely, that the former heroine anticipates the action of the latter by wasting away in her anxiety for Jason. The speaker confirms this point of the catalogue on a more psychological level in the sequel, when he claims that if Cynthia brings harm (quid... durius, 28) on herself by offending the gods, he is the on e who will really suffer (nostro dolitura periclo, 27). (47) His suffering will result from an emotional absorption in her for which Evadne's bodily absorption into Capaneus on the pyre is an exact analogue.

The word the speaker uses which comes closest to identifying this emotional absorption is cura (which also means, more literally, his concern or devotion). In 2931 he maintains that the very course of nature will have to flow backwards before he lets go of this cura or before it lets go of him (note the passive mutetur, which suggests that his own agency may not be up to ridding himself of this obsessive attachment). In trying to convey the depth of his cura he again evokes a distant world, not of myth this time, but of nature. But this is not nature per se, any more than the heroines inhabited the world of everyday; rather, it is a nature in reverse, one that is even more a product of sheer imagination than the heroines' world. (48) The indications thus far of fantasy on the speaker's part--from his overreaction to Cynthia's late arrival in full makeup to his vicarious dwelling on the heroines' trials--all suggest that this picture of nature turned backwards mimes a mind whose "reality" is in full collusion with fantasy. The roles the speaker scripted in the catalogue of heroines have given him a vehicle to immerse himself more deeply in the pain that his fantasies put him in to begin with. Given this state of immersion, it is understandable that, whatever Cynthia says, he will always want to get more out of her. For that reason he turns from describing the roles modeled by the mythical heroines, extreme as they were, to act out the one role that not only caps theirs, but brings him into the closest emotional proximity to Cynthia: his own. Indeed, an emotional and rhetorical crescendo builds from the heroines suffering their curae to his testimony to his cura. (49) He compares his periclum (3, 27) with their sad state; his dura (1), which are both the product and guarantee of his cura, with theirs. Thus cura, in the sense of "the pain of complete psychological absorption in the other" (which is also the proof of devotion), is the dominant idea motivating the climactic statement that comes in the next line: sis q uodcumque voles, non aliena tamen (32). (50)

This striking formulation has stimulated the most critical interest in the poem apart from the question about the frame scenario. It is a statement, however, open to some ambiguity, and not surprisingly commentators have been divided over its meaning. Interestingly, though, both of the meanings proposed thus far are based on the same basic definition of aliena: "not belonging to one," "(possibly) belonging to another." Either way, it is a question of Cynthia not belonging to the speaker, whether or not she belongs to anyone else. Camps provides a useful summary of the alternatives, as they apply to line 32 as a whole:

a) 'be what you will, only do not forsake me for another.' This is the most obviously natural meaning of the Latin, and though it does not match the meaning of the preceding hexameter it fits with it perfectly well. b) 'you can be what you will, only you cannot cease to be my love.' This would match the meaning of the hexameter; and the sense of aliena required ('not cared for by ...', 'a subject of indifference to ...') is illustrated by Ov. R.A. 681 and Trist. IV, iii. 67.

Camps himself prefers the first rendering, on the grounds that "it is doubtful whether ... we can really supply potes esse to go with non aliena." (51)

But besides meaning "not belonging to one" (including the connotation, "not cared for by one") or "belonging to another," aliena can also mean "estranged," "foreign," or "unsympathetic." (52) In keeping with the way the speaker has been trying to get Cynthia to enter fully into his own erotic sphere, his use of aliena here is an extension of this latter meaning, to say, in effect, "don't be different from me, be like me." Line 32 means as a whole, then, "Be whatever you want to be, just don't be different from me; immerse yourself in the same sort of desire, show me the same cura that I show you." (53) This meaning fits with that of the preceding hexameter and does not torture the syntax of the pentameter; in fact, it simply retains the sis of the first clause of line 32. Even more, it fits with the twofold point the speaker has been trying to make since the beginning of the poem: (54) that Cynthia will never cease to be an object of care to him, and consequently a cause of pain, because he is so closely boun d up with her; and that he wants her to be bound up with him in just the same way. If he seems to be emphasizing the masochistic side of his own desire at the moment, we must not forget that Cynthia's showing of that side on her part will give him the opportunity to gratify his sadistic side. In turn, he should have no problem finding pretexts in her behavior to continue gratifying his masochistic side. The ultimate outcome of this radically narcissistic mode of desire, if fully shared by both, would indeed be the complete psychological absorption of the one into the other. (55) This prospect provides the fullest answer as to why Cynthia might want to buy in to the speaker's strategy. His most powerful lure is the seductiveness of erotic absorption, of experiencing an exciting dissolution of boundaries between both fantasy and reality (through role-playing), and self and other (through narcissistic identification). (56)

Before taking up the poem's conclusion I want to consider an important implication of the narcissistic aspect of the speaker's model. This implication, which concerns the exchange of roles between sadomasochistic self and other, will help explain the particular turns the speaker takes as he moves toward the climax of this encounter with Cynthia and of the poem itself. Such an exchange may seem to hold out hope for at least a rough sort of mutuality. But as Benjamin explains (63), in such a case "the two sides are represented as opposite and distinct tendencies ["splitting" in psychoanalysis], so that they are available to the subject only as alternatives. The subject can play only one side at a time, projecting the opposite side onto the other." This means that the full impact of the hierarchical dynamics of domination and submission will afflict the relationship with a torturous complexity at all times, no matter which party is playing which role for the moment.

As noted earlier, most recent scholars find the problem with the amator to be that he has all the control. But my analysis of the flexibility and exchangeability of sadistic and masochistic roles makes it more accurate to see the problem, in this poem at least, as lying not in the speaker's complete domination of Cynthia but in his inability to commit himself to either a dominant or subservient position. If he could stick with either, that would at least bring some stability into the relationship (its ultimate stability depending on what position Cynthia maintained). That could also allow the relationship to be satisfying to both parties, provided they both found whichever roles they had adopted acceptable. But the speaker's manipulative efforts at control stem from a masochistic as much as a sadistic position. (57) It is important to recognize that masochistic behavior is not necessarily passive. In fact, it can take quite a bit of manipulation for the masochist to get his ends met. One of the most fascinati ng passages in The Bonds of Love is Benjamin's description of how the masochist is often the hidden director of the sadomasochistic encounter (64). (58) When the speaker assures Cynthia that no matter what she does his cura will never cease (29-31), he is setting himself up to be hurt by her, if not outright asking for it. This is merely the other side of the coin of how he tried to browbeat her into suffering for his sake when he held out the heroines' behavior as models for her to follow.

The narcissistic aspect of the speaker's desire is a key factor in his inability to settle on either the dominant or submissive role. Whichever position the narcissistic self may occupy at a given moment, it not only puts the other into the opposite position, it also sees in the other an image of itself. Both positions are thus occupied by the self or an image of the self; but at the same time, since they remain the sites of self and other, they are in opposition. Hence, both are unstable. Laplanche likens the position of the other in this instance to a mirror. In relation to that position, the self is "caught up in a seesaw-like movement which, at the slightest shift of the mirror, can cause an exchange [from one position to the other]" (75). (59) The self may perceive the other at one moment as the same, and at the next as radically other. When the self projects itself as object in the other, the other always reflects back the question of which side the self really is on. The answer remains ambiguous, howev er, because both sameness and otherness are constantly in flux. One has, in effect, two selves in play at once. A constant attempt to "catch up with the self" drives this seesaw process. If the other is correspondingly two-sided, the seesaw movement will be driven all the more powerfully for both. (60)

Such a seesaw process, in fact, defines the speaker's mental twists and turns in the poem's closing couplets. Thus far, we have followed his movements within a largely masochistic mode, although, as we have seen, that mode is accompanied by a sadistic subtext. But in the last couplets, the speaker switches to a more overtly sadistic role. He seems at first to be resuming the warning he had issued to Cynthia in 25-28 not to put herself in harm's way by perjuring herself before the gods. Although he used that warning as a pretext to advertise his own cura, it could certainly have been understood as accruing at least partly to her benefit. Likewise the present admonition:
tam tibi ne viles isti videantur ocelli,
 per quos saepe mihi credita perfidia est!
hos tu iurabas, si quid mentita fuisses,
 ut tibi suppositis exciderent manibus:
et contra magnum potes hos attolle Solem,
 nec tremis admissae conscia nequitiae? (33-38)

You must not put so cheap a price on those eyes of yours,
 which have so many times made me believe your lies!
You once swore by them that if you lied about anything,
 they could fall out into your waiting hands.
And now you can raise them up to the almighty Sun,
 without trembling at the thought of the wrong you have done?

It quickly becomes clear, however, that the main point of the earlier warning, namely, that any harm to Cynthia would really fall on the speaker, is no longer at issue. Rather, he turns to the wickedness Cynthia would evidence by her further perjury--a wickedness that he insists she is, or should be, fully aware of (admissae conscia nequitiae, 38). With this echo of Calypso longae conscia laetitiae, 14), lines 33-38 pick up a theme from the mythical exempla, but with a crucial change of key. What Cynthia is supposed to be conscious of here is not laetitia but nequitia. She is not to show exactly the same devotion as Calypso. There was no reason to doubt that Calypso's devotion, at least as the speaker presented it, was based on the free expression of laetitia. But Cynthia's devotion is to be based on guilt for her nequitia. That guilt binds her to strict obligation to the speaker, no matter what. It is no coincidence that he asserted his own claim on Cynthia's affections by saying, in effect, he was especiall y good at showing a kind of love that could only be fully demonstrated in response to abandonment or bereavement. That is in fact the point made by the mythical heroines, insofar as they describe his own masochistic position: he is bound to remain devoted in spite of abandonment (like Calypso and Hypsipyle) or in the face of bereavement (like Alphesiboea and Evadne). One might object that these examples do not represent the ideal circumstances for the speaker, but rather those that Cynthia's divided loyalties have imposed on him. (61) Yet that would raise the question of why the exempla advertise women who are abandoned or bereft rather than enjoying present and devoted lovers. It would also ignore that the speaker does not present his own predicament as merely an unfortunate fact; he glories in it. His testimony to his cara in lines 29-31 does not just parallel the portraits of the heroines; it also, as I have argued above, caps them with an emotional and rhetorical flourish. The speaker presents himself as the preeminent nobilis historia, a Romanaefama pudicitiae to outdo Argive Evadne. Despite what he claims Calypso felt about her laetitia with Odysseus (13-14), his notion of what really constitutes erotic laetitia is cura. (62)

There is the other side of the speaker's masochism, however, namely, the sadism that says laetitia should be cura for Cynthia too. What the speaker expects in return for his cura is an even greater denial of subjectivity on Cynthia's part than what Calypso suffered for the sake of Odysseus. Not coincidentally, the example of Evadne has intervened between that of Calypso and the speaker's current admonishment of Cynthia. In addition to this transformation of laetitia into nequitia, the repetition of the perfidia of line 2 in 34 connects the first of these couplets with the demand for absolute devotion that opened the poem. But by this point the speaker's attitude toward any falling off from such devotion has come to sound even harsher: such failure is now not just perfidia but a more general moral failure, nequitia. The parallel between these words is stressed by their emphatic placement at the end of lines 34 and 38; (63) that the greater weight is to be placed on the latter is indicated by how it caps the pe riod (35-38) that not only follows but expands on and explains the statement ending with perfidia est (33-34).

It seems as though, now that the speaker has issued his direct appeal for Cynthia to be non aliena (that is, to share his masochistic cura), the thought of what that would mean for her has flipped him over into his sadistic mode. He continues in that mode in the next couplet: quis te cogebat multos pallere colores / et fletum invitis ducere luminibus? ("Who caused you to turn every shade of pale I and force tears to come from eyes that really didn't want to cry?" 39-40). By insisting that no one forced Cynthia to show these proofs of devotion, he implies that she must have produced them of her own free will. (64) Hence, no alibis: she should be ashamed to look up at the sun with the eyes she swore by (33-38). And yet, here she is forswearing herself as though nothing could come of it. For her, no serious consequences can follow from this levitas. But for the speaker, love's ups and downs do entail consequences; in fact, in the next line he declares they are killing him: quis [Sc. the false claims of devotion alleged in 33-38 or the lying luminibus of 40] ego nunc pereo ("Because of them I'm perishing!" 41). Literally or figuratively, this "death" is the extreme manifestation of the dura that he said he scarcely dared fear in the opening lines. (65) Interestingly, this further demonstration of the speaker's cura follows on his description of Cynthia's own extravagant claim of devotion, in which she swore against her eyes popping out into her hands. Clearly, he reminds her of that claim to parallel his own extravagant claim at 27-31 that his devotion would last until nature turned backwards; hence, his point that she issues empty promises, however tearful, whereas he is dying because of the hurt done by those promises.

In one of those shifts of the mirror described by Laplanche, this thought of Cynthia's empty promises now flips the speaker back over to his masochistic side, as seen in his claim that he is "perishing." As if that were not enough, though, he just as quickly turns this cry of self-pity back around to a final attack on Cynthia: quis ego nunc pereo, similis moniturus amantis / "o nullis tutum credere blanditiis!" ("Because of those eyes, I'm perishing. To lovers like me, let it be a warning: / 'Don't ever place your trust in seductive words!"' 41-42). Thus, the poem ends on a note that is ambiguously both sadistic and masochistic. Ostensibly a warning to other amantes not to trust their mistresses' blanditiae, these lines also contain a threat to Cynthia that she will be immortalized not as a nobilis, but an ignobilis, historia. Line 42 proposes an epitaph for the speaker which will ensure that readers of either poem or tombstone will recognize these blanditiae--and the wickedness that belies them--as Cynthia's . On the other hand, these lines could also be one last attempt to persuade Cynthia with the kind of mock-desperation that proved so effective in lines 23-24, giving expression once again to the speaker's masochistic side.

Just as the speaker vacillates between sadistic and masochistic urges in this last couplet, so does he show an ambivalent attitude toward his psychological absorption in erotic fantasy and in Cynthia herself. On the one hand, he, rather than other amantes, may be the main audience for his warning about blanditiae; that is, he could be attempting to get some distance from his fantasies by exposing them to sober realism. On the other hand, his dwelling on blanditiae at this late moment could also betray that he himself is still subject to their allure. The warning to steer clear of such seductive words will only work on those who do not need it. Those who are in need of it--the similes amantes who share the speaker's narcissistic and sadomasochistic tendencies--will be drawn to the very idea of seduction by the same psychodynamics that motivate him and, one suspects, will draw him in again as well. It is no accident that blanditiis is left hanging as the last word of the poem. The lines that seemingly put an en d to both poetry and desire, like an epitaph that pronounces an end to life, will ensure that both will keep coming back. (66)

The speaker's desire, therefore, is shot through with self-contradiction, and the closing couplet, for all that it may seem to bring matters to a resigned close--the speaker is either dying of his love or swearing off it forever--actually does nothing to resolve his dilemma. The poem ends in a complex state of suspension, pulling different ways on a number of fronts. First, there is the interplay on the speaker's part between renewed fantasy and realistic reassessment(and possible escape), with every promise of a continuation of the sadomasochistic dynamics that draw him and Cynthia to one another. Then there is the question of who is in control, or whether anyone is in control, of this fantasy-driven psychological process. To say that the speaker maintains overall, let alone total, control is to oversimplify the complex erotic dynamics that the poem has explored. He does have recourse to poetry, but in spite of his wielding of the pen, his writing itself is ambiguous with respect to his control over both ero tic stability and poetic closure. Nothing shows this better than the end of the poem, which points to more desire and therefore more poetry.

And where does this leave Cynthia? When we consider all the elements of the poem's dramatic scenario--not just the speaker's words but the story that can be constructed around and through them--she would seem to be the very non aliena complement he needs to collaborate in his fantasies, with their frustrations as well as their satisfactions. (67) Lines 35-38 suggest she can be as extravagant as he in putting on a convincing show of devotion (assuming he has reported her words accurately there). But who is she really? What is the truth about her subjective stance? (68) We have, to repeat, no direct access to that stance; we only see her through what the speaker says. But it is surely significant that her claim of devotion, quoted (in indirect discourse, but otherwise exactly) by the speaker at 35-36, is put in structural parallel to his claim of everlasting cura at 29-31. In swearing by her eyes, she may, like the speaker, have been expressing a masochistic submissiveness and indeed fantasy of self-harm; or sh e may, again like him, have been sadistically setting him up for a big letdown; or she may have been doing both things at once. As with the speaker, the question of the truth or falsity of the self would seem to be buried under layers of role-playing. Both the speaker and Cynthia seem to interact on a level where fantasy scripts preclude any "truth" that can be discovered at the bottom of the relationship. (69) Everything is a pose on both sides, with no "true" position behind it, but rather a constant shifting between masochistic and sadistic urges. One thing, though, is clear: the fact that Cynthia keeps coming back after the kind of treatment the speaker dishes out here is most easily explained if she is psychologically attracted to the same interplay of sadomasochistic fantasy as he. Thus, Propertius does not describe a gender inversion that maintains male dominance and control, but rather dramatizes an actual breakdown of psychological boundaries at the interpersonal level which leaves gender distinction s very much in question. The erotics of 1.15 depict an ambiguous world of narcissistic sadomasochism, while the poetics tease the boundaries between fantasy and realism and poem and life in an aesthetic doubling of that world. (70)

I would suggest in closing that such a deep concern with dissolution of psychological and aesthetic boundaries is surely a product of powerful social and political motives. Marilyn Skinner has argued that Catullus's representation of gender inversion in the castration of Attis (poem 63) was "a literary response to elite despair over real decreases in personal autonomy and diminished capacity for meaningful public action during the agonized final years of the Roman Republic" (116-17). Perhaps Propertius's interest in an even more radical disruption of the boundaries between self and other, one that threatened dissolution of the very grounds of an autonomous identity regardless of psychosexual orientation, was a response to the ascendancy of Augustus. Propertius may have thought he saw writing on the wall promising even bleaker prospects for elite self-realization than during Catullus's time. He may also have had a vision of everyone being reduced to part of a mass irrespective of sex or status. Everyone, that is, except for the imperator--though Propertius may have seen him as less a participant in the psychosocial system than as an absolute force outside who left those inside, removed as they would be from real control, to indulge in fantasies of power and impotence. Whatever their specific form, some such social and political anxieties are doubtless reflected in this poem. But I also suspect those anxieties are bound up with a sheer fascination with what can happen when narcissistic sadomasochists meet their match. (71)

(1.) For a brief review of the discussion with particular reference to Propertius, see the following principal contributions: Hallett 1973:111-14 (= 1984: 249-52), 1989: 65, 1990: 193, 1992: 121-12 (= 1993b: 344-45), 1993a: 62-66; Dunn; Wyke 1987, 1989: 36-43, 1994: 115-21; Gold 1993a: 90-93 and 1993b: 279-93; Kennedy 30-34; Flaschenriem 1997 and 1998; McCoskey; Greene 1998, chap. 3, and 2000.

(2.) The question of whether the implications of gender role reversal in elegy at both personal and sociopolitical levels arc on balance favorable or not to women's interests has been extensively debated. For a positive view, see Hallett 1973: 111-14 (= 1984: 249-52), 1990: 193, 1992: 121-22 (= 1993b: 344-45), 1993a: 62-66; for a negative, see Gold 1993a: 90-93 and 1993b: 279-93, and Wyke 1989: 36-43 and 1994: 115-21. Kennedy 37-38 observes that deciding this question is made especially difficult because every interpretation is strongly influenced by its author's initial assumptions about "what is and is not deemed 'political.'"

(3.) Greene 1998, chap. 3. Not only is it true that Cynthia is seldom allowed to speak in her own voice, but even when she is given direct speech, her words are still reported by the amator. Can he be trusted to have reported them any more accurately than he has presumably described her other behavior? Greene 1998: 58 argues that Cynthia's speech at 1.3.35-46 is a stereotype of the scolding wife who claims the status of victim. Kaufhold 98 reaches an opposite conclusion about this speech: "Cynthia uses language typical of the elegiac lover. These generic conventions cast her in the role of a loving mistress rather than simply that of an angry woman." Cynthia is still idealized, indeed in just the role the amator wants to see her play; but that is also the role he claims to play. Hence, he presents her as no more debased or idealized than he presents himself. Flasehenriem 1998 argues that Propertius tries at least to imagine a feminine subjectivity, even if he does it through a speaker whose only means of expr essing that subjectivity are the conventions of the abandoned female which he applies to himself.

(4.) Wyke 1987; cf. Greene 2000: 246 on 2.1: "As poeta, the speaker constructs a maxima historia [elegy with epic pretensions] out of a woman, de nihilo." Richlin 138 argues that Propertius and the other elegists employ a "literary ventriloquism" to voice their own sentiments through female characters. On the other hand, Flaschenriem 1997 finds evidence of substantial agency on Cynthia's part within the amator's presentation of her. I would argue that what one finds with respect to this question depends to a great extent on whether one focuses on literary themes and devices or on the subjectivity of the dramatis personae of a given poem.

(5.) McNamee, and Gold 1993b: 279-93. A related debate has focused on the question of whether Cynthia and other elegiac mistresses bear any relation to real Roman women. See the 1990 special issue of Helios introduced by Culham, esp. Gamel's reply to Culham. See too Hallet 1973 (= 1984) and 1993a, Luck, Garbarino 180-88, Wyke 1987 and 1989, Gold 1993a, and Kennedy 34-39. On the relationship between the fictional world constructed by elegy and actual Roman life in general, see, e.g., Griffin 48-64, Veyne, and Feichtinger.

(6.) Thus, I welcome McCoskey's call for a renewed focus on subjectivity, rather than literary textuality, in Propertius, though I disagree with her specific findings (see n. 69 below).

(7.) That is, unless we were to apply an infinite regress and say that he himself is just making everything up, including a character within his own poems who is making everything up, and so on. That is a possible reading, but an absurd one, and would, more importantly, come at the price of ever suspending disbelief in the fictional world represented by the poems.

(8.) Poem 1.15 has not attracted as much critical attention in general as some others in the corpus. Critics have found it, somewhat paradoxically, both light in tone and excessively obscure. They have also, not coincidentally, found it to be less clearly or effectively engaged with Propertius's most important concerns. Otis 17 asserts: "The tone is light, the mythology exaggerated as well as comically malapropos, the solicitude rhetorical." Bennett's survey (29) of criticism on 1.15 concludes that the poem would "seem to be something of a failure."

(9.) I will refer to the poem's narrator as the speaker to emphasize the distinction between him, a character within the poem, and Propertius, the author outside it. I neither assume nor rule out any correspondence between Cynthia or the speaker and any historical person.

(10.) That is to say, my analysis is psychoanalytic. Unlike other psychoanalytic studies of Propertius, however, which tend to read the poems as clinical case histories by diagnosing the lover's actions as symptoms of specific Freudian pathologies, my goal is not to psychoanalyze the speaker but to describe how Propertius uses him to explore particular erotic positions. As examples of psychoanalytic studies of Propertius that do attempt specific diagnoses, I cite Sullivan 1961 and 1976: 91-106, who sees in Cynthia the type of object choice described by Freud 1910, and Verdiere, who finds in the voyeuristic episode of 1.10 the "symptome-cle" manic depression that is symptomatic of narcissistic sadomasochism. While I too see elements of narcissism and sadomasochism in the speaker of 1.15, I think any specific or exclusive diagnosis would be overly reductive. On a more recent psychoanalytic study of a Propertian poem from a Lacanian perspective (Spelman), see n. 33 below.

(11.) "Quotations of Propertius are from Barber's 1960 OCT. Translations are mine.

(12.) Bennett 28-30 notes this lack of commentary, and 30-39 offers a detailed analysis of the couplet, especially of the meaning of perfidia. Bennett 31 n. 11 also provides a helpful list of other scholarly views on the meaning of perfidia.

(13.) The number of scholars who have favored one or the other of these views is too large to adduce here. For a list and summary of arguments, see Davis 134 and Bennett 28-29.

(14.) See Bennett, Davis, and Gaisser.

(15.) Propertius calls attention to a contrast between claim and reality in Cynthia's behavior by means of verbal opposition elsewhere in the poem: verbis versus periuria (25), viles... ocelli (33-34), and multos pallere colores and fletum invitis... luminibus (39-40).

(16.) See 1.7.8 (and the comment of Kennedy 32 ad this line), 1.18.28, 2.17.9, and 3.5.2.

(17.) Levitas, in the sense of "heedlessness of consequences," does not correspond exactly to any of the meanings given in OLD, s.h.v. 3: "unreliability, inconstancy, fickleness, shallowness." But any of these meanings may connote "heedlessness," and some of the examples given in the OLD convey just this connotation: levitas fortunae (Seneca, Dial. 11.9.4) and manet in rebus temere congestis quae fuit levitas (Quintilian, Inst. 10.3.17).

(18.) The Propertian a mator sometimes denotes this concern by arrogating gravitas to himself in contrast to Cynthia's levitas (e.g., at 2.20.14); see further McCoskey 22-24.

(19.) One might object that this is to evaluate the authenticity of words spoken within the poem against a reality outside that does not exist, since we only have access to the poem. But I am assessing the speaker's statements as those of a character within the larger fictional world posited by the poem. As I noted above (pp. 28-29), Propertius may signal tensions between the amator's views and the "reality" of his fictional world by various rhetorical means (e.g., as here, overstatement). Such tensions must be evaluated in relation to the given fictional work as a whole. In this case, the speaker's overstatement about the danger he is in becomes more apparent the more that the poem shows how large a part role-playing and fantasy take on in his mental life in general.

(20.) Flaschenriem 1998: 50-53 finds "hyperbole" (quoting Hubbard 31) and "almost parodic extreme" in the Alphesiboea and Evadne exempla. She assumes that the catalogue is a product of the speaker's fantasy, but her argument is not concerned with following up any implications of this assumption.

(21.) Ribbeck 487 (followed by Rothstein ad loc.) divided the poem between 24 and 25. Although scholars since have generally not accepted this division, uneasiness has remained over the transition between these lines; see further Bennett 30 n. 10 and Davis 136 n. 11, and cf. n. 49 below. For an early defense of the unity of the poem as a dramatic whole, see Godolphin 64. Division of poems in the manuscript tradition of Propertius is of course notoriously problematic with the entire corpus to some extent, but especially with Book 2. On this problem see, e.g., Camps ad 3.15.11 and Hubbard 44-47.

(22.) See, e.g., Butler and Barber, Enk, and Camps, all ad loc.; Davis 136; Gaisser 387; and Hubbard 31-32. This interpretation depends on taking revocare to mean "return to, resume" (OLD, s.h.v. 12b, which cites this line) rather than "cancel, revoke" (OLD, s.h.v. 7b). The difference is between "don't perjure yourself before the gods once more, since you will surely break these new oaths" and "stop forswearing the gods, by going back on the oaths you have made." In addition to the support of OLD, the former meaning is strongly suggested by obiltos deos in line 26: since the gods seem to have forgotten to punish Cynthia's previous had oaths, she should not risk attracting their notice by perjuring herself afresh.

(23.) No word directly attributes grief to Evadne, as mota (9) and maesta (11) do to Calypso and anxia (17) to Hypsipyle. But the epithet miseros applied to Capaneus's pyre (21) has surely been transferred there from her feelings.

(24.) Flaschenriem 1998: 51 notes that, whether Propertius invented the motif of fratricide (which is attested nowhere else) or borrowed it from a source now lost, he has in either case "chosen to use an extreme and sensational story as an exemplum."

(25.) I thank one of the anonymous referees for suggesting this point. On the violence that often attends or results from love in elegy, see Connolly 79-83 and Fredrick.

(26.) This a question we will need to take up below, once we have seen better what place lactitia has in the speaker's model of desire.

(27.) As in the versions reported by Pausanius 8.24.8-10 and Apollodorus, Bibl. 3.7.5 (where Alcmaeon's wife is called Arsinoe),

(28.) On this aspect of elegy in general, see esp. Hallett 1973: 111-14 (= 1984: 249-52); Gutzwiller and Michelini 75-78; Gold 1993a: 90-93; and Wyke 1994: 115-21. On this aspect in the present poem see Flasehenriem 1998: 49-53.

(29.) The Propertian amator is often present in this way in mythological tableaux depicting idealized images of Cynthia. See, e.g., the series of heroines at the beginning of 1.3, and the comments of Greene 1998: 51-58 and Dunn 239-50 on that passage.

(30.) Gaisser 390-91 regards the exempla as a warning that the speaker may desert Cynthia. Bennett 35 n. 21 notes that the Propertian amator sometimes lies to his mistress about the genuineness of his own love. Otis 18 sees 1.15 as a dramatic dialogue in which an "ironical understanding" is reached between Cynthia and the speaker.

(31.) Thus, for example, she "will gain mythical status" (Greene 1994: 350; ef. Kennedy 6869). Commager 36 remarks of the many ploys by which Propertius tries to secure Cynthia all to himself: "But it was, ultimately, only through his verse that Propertius could hold Cynthia forever." The fact that nobilis means "exemplary" as well as "famous" may be pertinent too, the point being that these are models one should follow because they are morally correct as well as advantageous; in the poetic terms proposed by the speaker, however, it becomes hard to tell the two meanings apart. What is "right," after all, is what the poets have said is so.

(32.) Page references to Benjamin and Laplanche will be incorporated into the text.

(33.) I want to stress that these paths of development are not inevitable. Psychoanalytic critics sometimes write as though the particular model of desire they are discussing were inevitable, on the grounds that it is universal. Christopher Spelman, for example, has explored the desire of the narrator of Propertius 2.3 from a Lacanian point of view, arguing that this desire can be neither satisfied nor avoided. Spelman's analysis is theoretically astute and extremely enlightening on the poem in question, but I am bothered by his Lacanian presumption that all desire is similarly structured on a masculine prototype, following a universal pattern of deferral and nonsatisfaction; for example, "[Lacan] theorizes that the object of desire is a fetishized part that is, though unsatisfying, unavoidable" (131). But I think it is important to do justice to the experiential variability of desire and its outcomes, both across the genders and from one individual to another. It is also important to see what goes "right" an d what goes "wrong" in each case. Although I am bothered that Benjamin sometimes seems to assume that all sadomasochistic desire is intrinsically unhealthy or undesirable (see further n. 39 below), I think one of the strengths of her work is that she sees desire is open to many paths leading to successful, happy, and just outcomes as well as to their contraries.

(34.) This is not to say that spontaneity, creativity, or just plain play never inspires sadomasochistic relationships. I am specifically drawing a line here between consensual sadomasochism and the emotional sadism and masochism (with or without attendant physical violence) which probably figure to some extent in all interpersonal relationships (cf. Stoller 113-29). Needless to say, what is healthy erotic expression and what is not are politically fraught questions, not least when comparison is made between our own society's "norms" and "deviances" and those of other times and places. The touchstone I apply here is the perceived satisfaction or dissatisfaction of the participants. The present speaker of 1.15 certainly expresses an enormous degree of dissatisfaction, and it is hard to see how Cynthia could feel much different.

(35.) A fascinating modem study of what can happen when people become imprisoned within predetermined scripts is Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author.

(36.) Warden 38-50 has interesting remarks on a similar procedure in 4.7, where Propertius creates a picture of the underworld that is stylized but endowed with emotional "reality."

(37.) Sharrock 268-69 has a valuable discussion of the way "irrationality, magic, and myth" can take on as much "power" and "ontological force" in Propertius's poetry as what is represented as empirical reality. The process she analyzes is a doubling, at the level of the relationship between poem and real life, of the process through which the speaker's fantasy in 1.15 puts itself forward as his "reality." All this is not mere literary self-reflexivity: it is a way of questioning the transcendence as well as the stability of the amator's self-presentation on all levels. Just as his subjectivity is compounded of reality and fantasy, so is his poetry a compound of the "literary" and the "real" and not a stable site where he can assume a transcendent position (cf. Sharrock 264). Delbey 121 makes a similar point with respect to the intensification -- rather than distancing -- of passion and suffering through the deployment of the aesthetic in Propertius.

(38.) See, e.g., Veyne 136; Gutzwiller and Michelini 75-78; Kennedy 46-63, 67-69, 73-75; Flaschenriem 1998 (on the exempla of 1.15); and Greene 1994 (on Ovid's use of this strategy). Especially astute is Gutzwiller and Michelini's analysis of how the lover complains about the feminine dolor he suffers as a way of coercing his mistress into granting him pleasure.

(39.) Benjamin notes that "the question of submission is implicitly raised by Hegel and Freud, who see that the slave must grant power of recognition to the master" (54). She also acknowledges the fact (which she terms unpleasant) "that people really do consent to relationships of domination, and that fantasies of domination play a vigorous part in the mental lives of many who do not actually do so" (55). Although I find Benjamin's analysis persuasive for what I have termed emotional sadism and masochism (n. 34 above), I think it is a mistake to extend her analysis, as she herself sometimes seems to do, to all sadomasochistic phenomena. Benjamin has in fact been criticized on this point by feminist defenders of female, as well as male, sexual dissidents, such as practitioners of consensual sadomasochism; see, e.g., Rubin 27-32, esp. 32 with her n. 86. I would add that such consent implies not only needs or wants that sadomasochistic roles can satisfy but also the prospect of pleasure (or an excess of pleasure over pain).

(40.) Greene's argument (1998, chap. 3) that Propertius's specifically male desire dominates Cynthia by treating her as erotic object and narrative subject matter draws fruitfully on some of the same ground in The Bonds of Love that I cover. But Greene ignores Benjamin's crucial analysis of the complementarity between domination and submission. That analysis would, I believe, reveal another side to the poems Greene discusses (1.1, 3, 7, and 11), just as it does to 1.15.

(41.) If in a given case the sadistic or the masochistic motive will dominate, as Stoller 113-29 points out, some combination of the two probably characterizes most "normal" interpersonal relationships. The way sadism originates in Laplanche's view could facilitate this alternation of roles. The movement and countermovement of primary aggression turned inward, then outward, could be repeated indefinitely, the self switching back and forth between sadistic and masochistic roles along with it. See further my discussion of Laplanche's analysis of the seesawing of identification between self and other in narcissism (p. 46 below).

(42.) Poem 1.3 offers an example of Cynthia playing the role that the speaker is asking to see here, and there she is given a substantial speech in which she states her own views. On how this speech, which voices the word cura in its last line (36), shows Cynthia "in the role previously occupied by the lover Propertius," see Kaufhold 93-98; cf. n. 3 above.

(43.) As noted above (n. 24), Propertius has highlighted, if not invented, the motif of fratricide. Alphesiboea's abandonment by Alcmaeon he mentions not at all, leaving open the reason her brothers killed him. One effect of this selection of details is to shift the emphasis from abandonment to an extreme display of devotion in response to the loved one's death.

(44.) See, e.g., Camps and Richardson, both ad loc. For a defense of Markland's transposition see Enk 130.

(45.) Allen 383-84; cf. Alfonsi 134 and Gaisser 389.

(46.) The narcissistic aspect of the speaker's model of desire argues for placing the Evadne exemplum last, since her self-immolation on her husband's pyre takes the idea of narcissistic absorption in the other to its logical extreme. Whitaker 107-09 notes (following Rothstein ad 19) that the original point of the exempla (Calypso did not worry about her appearance when her lover was in danger) is increasingly eclipsed by the theme of devotion.

(47.) On nostro dolitura periclo meaning "at my peril" (not "over, because of," pace Butler and Barber ad loc.), see Shackleton-Bailey 43-44, who provides a long list of parallels. I would add that the emphatic position of nostro calls for this meaning: the speaker's insistence on his danger betrays his fear of harm. Hubbard's observation (32) that "at this point where the lovers are most clearly in dialogue, their identity is also most clearly stressed" anticipates my argument that narcissistic absorption is a key feature of the speaker's model of desire.

(48.) Fantasies of nature in reverse are of course as much a staple Propertian trope as mythical exempla; cf., e.g., 2.3.5-8 and 2.15.31-36.1 do not mean to imply any overarching interpretation of the point of such tropes throughout Propertius's works. Each case must be assessed according to the themes and narrative dynamics of the poem in question.

(49.) Commentators' uneasiness over the transition between lines 24 and 25 (see n. 21 above) extends to discomfort over the larger transition between 24 and 25-32. Butler and Barber's comment (ad 25-32) is illustrative: "The first couplet follows abruptly on 24, but may be defended as an explosion not altogether out of keeping with the poet's character. 29-32, however, present a more serious problem; for their sudden assertion of the poet's constancy interrupts the denunciation of Cynthia's perfidy." But this problem evaporates as soon as we see that the speaker is putting forward his constancy, or devotion, as the model for Cynthia to follow in place of her lack thereof.

(50.) Davis's observation (137) that line 32 "is an abject plea that [Cynthia] not reject [the speaker] and upon a superficial view would seem to have been a good place to stop" registers the climactic force of the phrase non aliena tamen. Cf. Otis 17-18: "Line 32 is a quite satisfactory ending and completes the comical movement from the heroines (that Cynthia can never emulate) to the resigned present."

(51.) Camps ad loc. Some commentators (e.g., Rothstein, Butler and Barber, and Enk, all ad loc.) supply eris rather than pores esse to go with non aliena. This fills in the elision more easily, while still obtaining the meaning that Camps feels goes better with the hexameter. Note too the remark of Bennett 38 n. 28: "Non aliena (eris) restates, negatively, the clause prius quam tua mutetur cura of the preceding verses, and means 'you will not cease to be an object of concem (= love, here) to me.'" But I will argue that there are grounds other than those considered by either the commentators or Bennett for a different interpretation of non aliena, an interpretation that fits with the speaker's demonstration of cura summed up in the hexameter but that gives a different slant to aliena.

(52.) Cf. OLD, s.h.v. 7a, which gives the following examples. Ovid, Rem, am. 681: nulla sit ut placeas alienae cura puellae (note that the sense attributed to this phrase by OLD diverges from that given it by Camps, as quoted above). Martial 12.52.13: non aliena videt sed amat Proserpina raptas (note that Proserpina feels sympathetic to rape victims because she herself was raped by Pluto; this is analogous to the narcissistic identification at the heart of the speaker's model of desire). Terence, Hec. 658: quom eius alienum esse animum a me sentiam (Pamphilus is referring here to his belief that Philumena has had a child by another man, thereby suggesting the meaning "belonging to another man," "being unfaithful"; however, the specific phrasing alienum ... animum suggests rather the meaning I am proposing for aliena in Prop. 1.15). And Propertius 1.8.18: sir Galatea tuae non aliena viae. Interestingly, Fedeli ad 1.15.32 relates Propertius's use of aliena to the terminology of amicitia, and specifically to vio lation of foedus amicitiae. Thus the speaker is asking Cynthia, whatever else she may do, at least to observe the outward forms of foedus amicitiae. Fedeli's interpretation thus comes close to my own, except that he, like other commentators, keeps his focus on external signs and circumstances, while I am looking at inner disposition as well.

(53.) The lines sed qualiscuwque es, resonent mihi "Cynthia" silvae, / nec deserta tuo nomine saxa vacent ("But, whatever you choose to be, may the woods echo "Cynthia" back to me, I and may the deserted stones not be vacant of your name," 1.18.31-32) make a parallel point with similar phrasing (qualiscumque ~ quodcumque). The speaker of 1.18 wants to be surrounded by Cynthia's presence just as he is by the woods. But his querelae (29) that will fill the deserta loca (1) reveal that this wish will have to be self-fulfilling: the behavior he complains of has temporarily placed Cynthia very far from him. See further Flaschenriem 1977: 260-61.

(54.) In fact, as Butler and Barber ad 25-28 note, Propertius returns here to the point with which he opened the poem: "Periuria links up with perfidia (2), while periclo echoes periclo (3)." As I argued above, the point stressed in the opening couplet is absolute devotion to one's beloved. Bennett 38 likewise connects the perfidia of line 2 with periuria in line 25, although he finds that these periuria are distinct from the present lying denoted by perfidia, for the latter are Cynthia's earlier insincere oaths. In my view, the perfidia of line 2 is in effect Cynthia's being aliena in the sense of "not being, or loving, like the speaker"; cf. Bennett 34-39. This parallel between the opening couplet and lines 31-32 is further signaled by the repetition of tamen (2, 32).

(55.) Harmon's comment (165) apropos Cynthia's complaint about the narrator's absence in 1.3 that she appears as "a woman of kindred nature to his own" catches a glimpse of the mode of desire in question here.

(56.) On this phenomenon from a Freudian perspective with particular reference to Baudelaire, see Bersani 67-89. Baudelaire's poetic technique and erotic sensibility seem to me remarkably similar to those of Propertius. Bersani finds in Baudelaire an insight about death that is more radical than Freud's own notion of the "death instinct" (Freud 1920): "The Freudian death instinct is a myth actually meant to account for the inherent sexuality of death--that is, for the profoundly exciting nature of the ultimate exceeding of quantitative limits in the absolute 'discharge' of death" (88). This exceeding of limits is structurally similar to that which occurs in the dissolution of boundaries between self and other. Benjamin 222, interestingly, notes how such dissolution "inspires the thrill of transgression."

(57.) The ambivalence between egoism and altruism in Roman elegy noted by Lilja 192-206 reflects this psychological ambiguity on an ethical level. psychologically, the speaker's contradictory positions can also be looked at in terms of the conflict between Freud's "reality" and "pleasure" principles (Freud 1911 and 1915: 134-36). In these terms, the non aliena statement of line 32 means: "Be what you want (the reality that is "other," that does not concern me), but also be non aliena (the fantasy that suits me, that pleases me)."

(58.) Benjamin 64 n. 17 provides a number of references corroborating this observation; see further Stoller 113-29. I am assured by Richard Armstrong (personal communication) that it is no secret the masochist is always the real director of the sadomasochistic encounter. But I suspect this fact would still be news to those who are not familiar with S/M practices. Besides, the active role of the submissive partner in more common situations of emotional (and physical) dominance is another matter, and probably confined to "secrecy" for more powerful reasons than those which account for many people's ignorance of, if not disgust at, consensual S/M behavior.

(59.) Still the fundamental text on narcissism is Freud 1914. Laplanche 75-82 provides a convenient summary of Freud's thinking, with some interesting extensions, including the analysis of the seesaw movement I discuss here. On narcissism (also projection, the mirror image of narcissistic absorption) in Propertius, see further La Penna 135-36 and 170-71.

(60.) 1t is useful to note that when domination is all on one side, the other enjoys no separate existence at all; hence, there is no room for this seesaw process. That is solipsism rather than narcissism. Some recent criticism of the amator's relationship to Cynthia seems to reduce it to just such solipsism. Obviously, I think the present case at least is rather more complex.

(61.) I thank one of the anonymous referees for bringing this objection to my attention.

(62.) Regularly, the value of laetitia to the Propertian lover is that it reinvigorates his cura. Note the turn in 2.15 from delight (o me felicem! 1) to a vesanus amor (29) that is equated with grief (dolores, 35). Note too 2.25.1, unica nata ,meo pulcherrima cura dolori ("That lovely woman, born to be my one and only care and grief"); cf. Warden 44: "The virtual identification of love and grief, of amor and dolor" is one of the "recurrent themes in Propertius' poetry."

(63.) Line 34 actually ends with perfidia est, but the two words would be contracted when spoken; moreover, est adds only a verbal inflection, not a semantic value, to perfidia.

(64.) A sallow color was of course a sign of genuine passion in a tradition going back to Sappho 31. For Latin examples of this association, see OLD, s.v. palleo.

(65.) Allen 384-85 sees here ironic play between the notions of physical and emotional death.

(66.) It is worth noting that for Propertius (as for other Latin poets) poetic success is nearly always a matter of some anxiety. In fact, the Propertian amator often equates erotic triumph and loss with poetic success and failure. On this point, see further Flaschenriem 1997.

(67.) Garbarino 190-92 notes that both Cynthia and the amator sometimes express sexual jealousy. Identifying "la dipendenza dal partner" as the source of this jealousy, Garbarino offers an interesting discussion of the conflictual character of the amor based on such dependence.

(68.) Poem 3.8 offers a compendium of certo in amore notas (18). Interestingly, only three are recorded as having been performed by the speaker's mistress (who is unnamed): verbal abuse, turning a table over, and throwing wine-cups. The rest are hypothetical or hoped for. The last couplet tries to insist that if the mistress took another lover, it would just be further proof of her love for the speaker, because it would show her spite of him for some slight: cui nunc si qua data est furandae copia noctis, / offensa illa mihi, non tibi amica, dedit (39-40); or perhaps it would show her anger at suspicions of his unfaithfulness sown by the rival in question: at tibi, qui nostro nexisti retia lecto (37). The question here of whether any sign of love is "true" or not would seem to be for both parties awash in a sea of sadomasochistic roleplaying, fantasy, and delusion (of both self and other, fed further by a third party).

(69.) Thus, I disagree with McCoskey's argument (17) "that sexual difference is given textual form in the poetry of Propertius through his attempt to differentiate himself and Cynthia according to their comparative 'densities' of being.... Propertius' continuing insistence on his own innate stability contrasts with his censure of Cynthia for her 'lightness', a levity firmly rooted in her position as femina." In 1.15, at least, any such density, stability, or rootedness in either Cynthia or the speaker is shown as being undermined by the interplay of narcissistic fantasy.

(70.) James's article on the economics of elegy came to my attention too late for me to take account of it in my main argument. She stresses the economic and social inequality between lover and puella, and sees their relationship as primarily an economic transaction, where the elite male lover wants sex for free (or in exchange for poetry) but the puella--modeled on the courtesan of Greek New Comedy--needs a material return to survive. This as such would not seem to leave much room for the kind of narcissistic interplay that I have been discussing, and would indeed preclude any psychological motive for the puella's involvement. James 227 n. 12 sees the elegiac genre as "relatively unified" in presenting this socioeconomic setup, and I think she is right about the social realities and literary precedents that lie behind the unequal positions of lover and puella throughout elegy as a whole. But I would stress the qualification in her word "relatively." Propertius especially among the elegists seems to me to str etch the framework of the genre to explore situations that would be unrealistic or even improbable within its highly artificial conventions, and not just as a cover for the superior social and economic power of the lover. The complex psychological interactions Propertius often dramatizes seem to me too intriguing not to have point in their own terms; and they do not seem to me entirely implausible for the elite male lover and courtesan who make up the dramatis personae of elegy. Pleasure and profit do not preclude psychological investment, after all; and even when the partners are socially and economically unequal, the psychological power is not always all on one side. It is interesting that poem 1.15 does not foreground the economic issues James discusses (and she does not include this poem among her examples); perhaps Propertius downplayed those issues so as not to distract from the psychological motivations he wanted to focus on.

(71.) I would like to thank the following people for their kindness in offering critical feedback and support at several crucial stages of the writing of this article: Betsy Wheeler, Katharine Toll, Mary-Kay Gamel, and Eika Tai. I am also greatly indebted to the three extraordinarily careful and patient anonymous referees, and to the editor for his advice and encouragement.


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GARY MATHEWS teaches Humanities at the North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem. He is currently working on a book, inspired by Walter Benjamin's work on allegory and historiography, on Euripides' use of paradox as an allegory of religious and social uncertainty in late fifth-century Athens. His article on Propertius in this volume is part of a projected book on psychology and aesthetics in Roman lyric and elegy.
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Author:Mathews, Gary
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Date:Mar 22, 2002
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