On the edge of the text preface and reader in Ovid's Amores.
An aspect of the epigram that remains largely unexplored is its pointed ambivalence, especially in relation to its paratextuality, temporality, and teleological structure. Historico-realist and textualist readings--readings that cannot but assert their own position by refuting one another--lend initial support. As we shall see, in its role of preface to the Amores the epigram exhibits as much as it hides, and in doing so it serves to perpetuate a structure that, when read for its potential to reveal a given reality, promises yet frustrates knowledge, opens yet simultaneously closes a door to interpretation. Indeed, one could argue that, if there is one constant to this text, this is that its meaning thrives on a framework of ambiguity. A central aim of this paper, therefore, will be to uncover moments in the process of reading and interpreting the epigram vis-a-vis the main text which underscore this very sense of ambiguity, and to consider in turn how they might point to alternative, and possibly unexplored, ways of approaching the Amores as a whole. Since stylistic, poetological, and intertextual backgrounds to the epigram have already been investigated sufficiently, I will not revisit existing theses and approaches. Instead, I propose to highlight a new direction in the criticism of the epigram which explores the larger question of how textual borders communicate ideologies and practices for reading that may be otherwise missed if our interpretation is only anchored to the main text.
One way to begin looking at these questions is to consider how reading practices have molded our approach to the Amores. We are perhaps all too accustomed to enter the collection from elegy 1.1 and exit it from 3.15, and so to read the epigram as an editorial note of some kind that stands quite separately from the main text and its area of criticism. The long-established intertextuality between Vergil's arma at the opening of Aeneid 1 and Ovid's editorial comment in Amores 1.1.1-2 (arma ... parabarn / edere [Arms ... I was making ready to utter) (6) might well be part of the reason for which we tend to regard Amores 1.1 as the incipit of the collection. This approach to reading also owes something to the frequent association of the attack of Cynthia/amor in Propertius 1.1 with that of amor in Amores 1.1, since both serve not only as narrative beginnings in the stories of the Propertian and Ovidian lovers but also as metaphors for the lovers' beginnings in the love-elegiac genre. (7) Plot-oriented accounts of the Amores, moreover, have carved a mode of autobiographical reading that traces key events in the story of the poet-lover of elegy 'chronologically' at various points between elegies 1.1 and 3.15. (8) But love-elegiac collections do not always lend themselves to flowing, overarching narratives, a feature of the genre that has motivated scholars to reexplore its narratological map and to highlight other ways of interpreting its forms of plotting. (9) With regard to the Amores, one perspective (P. Salzman-Mitchell) has been that their plot is not necessarily governed by an ordered chain of events, but by "a succession of snapshots without explicit links" from which the reader can "connect the pictures and imagine the events that operate as transitions." This approach opens up a dynamics of reading based on less strict narratological patterns, the collection unfolding to readers as a photo album, each image suggesting a fragmentary part of possible, yet not exhaustive, narrative wholes. (10) Yet, even when this reading makes for a significant attempt to conceive of the Amores' narrative in ways other than those promoted by more traditional narratology and/or autobiographical modes of reading, the fact remains that the epigram continues to be regarded as peripheral and that plotting procedures also continue to be anchored to the main text. But what paths to interpretation may emerge if we incorporate the preface into our reading?
Aside from a comment on the reduction of books from five to three (qui modo ... fueramus quinque libelli / tres sumus, 1-2), the Amores epigram does not relate an explicit rationale by which the poems could be read as a collection--at least not in the manner laid out in prefaces such as those in Statius's Silvae or the letters of Pliny the Younger. The preface to Silvae 1, for instance, gives us rather tangible clues as to two modes of reception of that book--one before and one after the poems were collected and published. Each piece, so Statius tells Stella, was the product of spontaneity and swift composition (qui mihi subito adore et quadam festinandi voluptate fluxerunt, 3-4), but, once collected for publication, they would loose their original appeal (sed apud ceteros necesse est multum illis pereat ex venia, 13-4) and be approached differently than they were meant to in the first place (cum amiserint quam solam habuerunt gratiam celeritatis, 15-6). The pre-publication poems, then, stress a reading of the poems as products of the spur of the moment, while the post-publication poems might encourage an approach that, for example, sees the collection as the result of heavy polish and revision. (11) The preface to Pliny's Epistles 1 also plots a desired mode of reception. In this preface, Pliny tells Septicius that the letters in book 1 were not collected to serve a chronological order (collegi non servato temporis ordine, 1), since the collection was not arranged after the chronology expected in historical writing (neque enim historiam componebam, 1-2), but simply after the pattern imposed by the circulation of the letters by addressee (sed ut quaeque in manus venerat, 2). The preface thus emerges as an implicit warning to readers who might be tempted to carve an autobiographical reading as they move to the main body of the text. But the significance of paratextuality in our reception of Pliny's collection of letters can be pushed even further. Current research shows that the paratextual indices at the front of each of Pliny's books list "addressee + incipit" in linear order, thus encouraging a reading practice that is quite different from that offered by the text read without the indices. While the text itself might emphasize variety and/or chronology at the microscopic level, the indices plus incipit suggest reading for the addressee, a feature of the collection that confronts our modern tendency to read it as "failed autobiography." (12)
When it comes to the Amores, an example that both underlines the importance of their preface for the collection and disrupts plot-oriented or autobiographical reading practices is suggested by the main text itself. Am. 2.1 has been read as a "part 2" in a plot that stresses (and predicts) the poet's journey of "generic ascent" from elegy, through tragedy, to epic. (13) The opening of this elegy, however, can be approached through a contesting avenue of interpretation if one takes the epigram into the equation:
hoc quoque composui Paclignis natus aquosis ille ego nequitiae Naso poeta meat. (Am. 2.1.1-2) qui modo Nasonis fueramus quinque libelli, tres sumus: hoc illi praetulit auctor opus. ut lam nulla tibi nos sit legisse voluptas, at levior demptis poena duobus erit. (epigramma ipsius) arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam edere (Am. 1.1.1-2) esse quid hoc dicam (Am. 1.2.1) This, too, is the work of my pen--mine, Naso's born among the humid Paeligni, the well-known singer of my own worthless ways. (Am. 2.1.1 -2) We who were five books of Naso are three; the poet has preferred to have his work thus rather than as before. Though even now you may take no joy in reading us, yet with two books taken away your pains will be lighter. (epigramma ipsius) Arms, and the violent deeds of war, I was making ready to sound forth. (Am.1.1.1-2) What shall I say this is ... (Am. 1.2.1)
The above sequence maps out a reading procedure whereby paratextuality enters in competition with both the orders of plot building and the criticisms of the text this mode of reading can offer. The epigram here stands between Am. 2.1 and 1.1 + 1.2 not as part of a sequence that adds detail to a plot, but as a source of recollection that takes us from book 2, to the preface, and then back to book 1. The opening lines of Am. 2.1 vividly remind readers that, at this latter point of the collection, they are also (quoque, 1) reading the same text (hoc, 1; cf. hoc, epigr. 2; hoc 1.2) inscribed by the same author (Naso, 2; Nasonis, 1; and implicitly in dicam, 1.2.1). Likewise, the epigram stands between 2.1 and 1.1 + 1.2 as a powerful reminder that the text we are reading is still the product of careful editing. As we start to read 2.1, where the auctor presents book 2 as additional textual material (hoc quoque composui, 1), we are prompted to recall that the same auctor (paradoxically, as we shall see below) had introduced book 1 by directing readers' attention to the material left out (arma ... violenta bella, 1), even as he was planning to include it for publication (parabarn / edere, 1-2). Moreover, the same auctor continued to expand on this very representation of the editorial process in 1.2.1ff. as he pauses to reflect on the question of what path the text that has excluded epic material in 1.1 would then include (esse quid hoc dicam, 1). We may arguably take the developments at the opening of 2.1 (a new book, more material) in conjunction with 1.1 + 1.2 as a story of how the book is 'growing: Yet, if we hinge 2.1 and 1.1 + 1.2 on the epigram, a different image emerges. As opposed to the building of a story that originates in 1.1 and reaches a narrative peak in 2.1, the sequence that includes the epigram works to deflate the claims of plot building, reading instead like a performance of the very process of composition and of the rhythms of editing which the preface has already outlined: the collection could have been bulkier (fueramus quinque libelli, 1-2) but after some editing, the author has produced a more compact text (tres sumus, 2; demptis ... duobus, 4). Whereas the main text (1.1 + 1.2 and 2.1), therefore, emphasizes generic ascent and/or story building, the preface encourages a reading of these sections of the text both as recollection and as a performance of that recollection, allowing the interpreter to see that the text is still the product of the poet-editor at work. Further, along with this contrasting reading procedure controlled by the epigram, there also emerges a parallel image of how we, the readers, are constructing our roles vis-a-vis the unfolding text, for the sequence 2.1.1-2 + epigram + 1.1.1-2 + 1.2.1 puts up a mirror before us, as it were, in which we can see ourselves making alternative transactions with the main text through its paratextual remarks. In this case, paratextual remarks have not necessarily or exclusively prompted us to search for the unfolding story, but to contemplate on trajectories of the text that potentially unlock doors to alternative thresholds of interpretation. (14)
When taken into account, the epigram can be ultimately seen to pilot a dynamics of interpretation which otherwise would not occur if reading is solely approached from the main text. Philippe Lejeune, better known as a source for Gerard Genette's ideas on textuality than for his own pioneering work, (15) conceives of the function of paratexts along these terms. In his Le pacte autobiographique, he contends (1975, 46) that paratexts are "fringes of the printed text which in reality control one's whole reading of the text." Perhaps one should place a slightly lesser emphasis on the idea that the preface of the Amores controls our whole reading of the collection, for this would be to claim that the text could be interpreted only from a single perspective. Yet one could argue that the perspective offered by the epigram as paratext is indeed unique. After all, as we have seen, it disrupts linear reading, thus taking us out of the mindset of plot building and motivating us to explore the text from avenues of interpretation which stress, for instance, reading as memory and performance of that memory.
The epigram's unique paratextual perspective can be probed even further, especially as one investigates the question of its ambiguous ontology and temporality as preface to the main text. In the reading procedure discussed above, our mental picture of the epigram took us to the foremost edge of the text of the Amores, that is, to the front of a roll of papyrus or the front side of the text when inserted into modern book form. Yet while the location of a preface in a text is clear-cut, its temporality is not. In Dissemination (1981), Jacques Derrida opens his work with an eccentric foreword that simultaneously prefaces and deconstructs the character of the preface by drawing attention to the ambiguity inherent in a concept that at first sight appears to be straightforward:
From the viewpoint of the fore-word, which recreates the intention-to-say after the fact, the text exists as something written--a past--which under the false appearance of a present, a hidden omnipotent author (in full mastery of his product) is presenting to the reader as his future. Here is what I wrote, then read, and what I am writing that you are going to read. After which you will again be able to take possession of this preface which in sum you have not yet begun to read, even though, once having read it, you will already have anticipated everything that follows and thus might just as well dispense with reading the rest. (1981, 6; my emphasis)
Derrida's position is similar to Lejeune's in that Derrida also grants prefaces full control of the core text. In this passage he argues that he is suggesting that this kind of control can be grasped on the basis of a rereading procedure: "After which [i.e. you have read the text of Dissemination] you will again be able to take possession of this preface." Our realization that the preface allows us to anticipate "everything that follows," he maintains, occurs once we have read the main text and return to the preface again with a knowledge of that text. Only retrospectively are readers really in a position to conceive of the preface in such a way that, as Derrida puts it, they "might just as well dispense with reading the rest." Again, as with Lejeune, the totalizing function here attributed to the preface seems overstated. But his observations on rereading procedures lend support to my reading above of Am. 2.1.1-2. In that example, the guiding force of the epigram could not be fully appreciated by sole reference to it, but arose from a reading of the main text, which then took us back to a rereading of the epigram. By the same token, the example of Am. 2.1 shows that a rereading of the epigram does not quite suggest that readers may then dispense with the three books of the Amores, for even if the epigram as preface contributed with a unique perspective, that is, reading as recollection, this required a part of the main text to do so. It is Derrida's conceptualization of the complex ontology and temporality of the phenomenon we call 'preface, and, by extension, of the contrasting modes of reading that this complexity entails, which makes for an illuminating reconsideration of our epigram. The notions of both 'presence' and 'present' of the preface are here subverted by reference to two kinds of texts: the author's and the reader's. Physically located before the core text, the preface presents readers with this text as their future. Yet, from the viewpoint of the author, both ontologically and temporally speaking, the preface is a postscript, an afterthought inserted before the reader's text, a text that for the author is already his past. From the perspective of a postscript, prefaces then articulate an important ambiguity for attentive readers. We can see how this conceptualization operates in the Amores. In Derridean terms, one can conceive of two texts, the reader's and the author's, both of which would look thus:
The Reader's Text qui modo Nasonis fueramus quinque libelli, tres sumus: hoc illi praetulit auctor opus. ut iam nulla tibi nos sit legisse voluptas, at levior demptis poena duobus erit. (epigramma ipsius) arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam edere ... (Am. 1.1-2) inbelles elegi, genialis Musa, valete, post mea mansurum fata superstes opus. (Am. 3.15.19-20) We who were five books of Naso are three; the poet has preferred to have his work thus rather than as before. Though even now you make take no joy in reading us, yet with two books taken away your pains will be lighter. (epigramma ipsius) Arms and the violent deeds of war I was making ready to utter ... (Am. 1.1-2) Unwarlike elegies, congenial Muse, farewell, work to live on when I am no more. (3.15.19-20) The Author's Text: inbelles elegi, genialis Musa, valetc, post mea mansurum fata superstes opus. (Am. 3.15.19-20) qui mode Nasonis fueramus quinque libelli tres sumus: hoc illi practulit auctor opus. ut lain nulla tibi nos sit legisse voluptas, at levior demptis poena duobus erit. (epigramma ipsius) arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam edere (Am. 1.1-2 )
The sequences entered above show two contrasting versions of the text and two contrasting modes of reception. The Reader's Text traces a traditional reading route in which the epigram is 'here and now' for readers and the three books of the Amores stand as their future. This version of the text promotes a linear reading whereby readers find themselves following the text, always a step behind from beginning to end. The Author's Text, by contrast, throws light on the possibility of an entirely different reading path through the optics of the preface as postscript. This text connects the end of Am. 3.15 (the end of the Reader's Text) back to the epigram, which in the case of the Author's Text has emerged as an afterthought inscribed by him for the reader about to read the Amores as a finished product for the first time. From the viewpoint of the author the epigram is then inscribed not simply as a prefatory note, but crucially to motivate a particular way of approaching the collection. (16) In this case, the ontological and temporal dimensions of a preface as postscript suggests that the end of the Amores does not necessarily have to be elegy 3.15, for the end of the text gives readers the option to put the Amores aside after a first linear read or to revisit them and consider them in a new light via the alternative reading route piloted by paratextual remarks. In other words, the preface-as-postscript perspective works to carve a cyclical, and therefore intensive, reading of the collection. Further, the idea of our revisiting the text paratextually is consistent with the process of authorial revision of the collection. Line 2 of the epigram underscores this very process: hoc illi praetulit auctor opus. Note in particular the prepositional prefix in praetulit, which paradoxically makes 'edition 2' (a revised version) anterior to 'edition 1: In revisiting and rereading the text of the Amores through the preface, readers are then also retracing the process by which the author has revised his text for both a particular effect and a specific mode of reading. In this case, the epigram gives unique glimpses of how the author has manipulated his material so that this version of the Amores (edition 2) becomes the version guiding our reading. (17)
These observations might appear all too modern and theoretical when applied to an ancient text. However, the technicalities of the preface-as-postscript mode of reading can be found in the Ovidian text itself, specifically in Tristia 1.7.33-40, where the poet in exile gives readers a preface that they can attach, if they wish to do so, on the very front of his Metamorphoses:
hos quoque sex versus, in prima fronte libelli si praeponendos esse putabis, babe: 'orba parente suo quicumque volumina tangis, his saltem vestra detur in urbe locus. quoque magis faveas, haec non sunt edita ab ipso, sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui. quicquid in his igitur vitii rude carmen habebit, emendaturus, si licuisset, eram.' And here are six lines more for you, to place in the first book's frontispiece (if that honour's what you think they deserve): "All you who touch these rolls, now orphaned of their father, grant them at least a place in your city! He didn't publish them (that's in their favour); they were, in a manner of speaking, snatched from their master's funeral. So whatever faults this unfinished poem reveals, he'd have mended if he could." (Translation from Green, 2005)
One perceptive reading of this passage has been that Ovid is here exercising a method of 'tampering with the text' (note in particular non sunt edita, 37; rude carmen, 39; emendaturus ... eram, 40) in an attempt to rewrite the Metamorphoses from the changed circumstances of the poet in exile. (18) But the process of rewriting, as we have seen above with the process of revision of the Amores, also invites a process of rereading this work. Again, readers can conceive of two ways of approaching the Metamorphoses once they have read Tristia 1.7:
The Reader's Text: in nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora ... (Met. 1.1-2 ) iamque opus exegi ... ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fama, (siquid habent veri vatum praesagia) vivam. (Met. 15.871, 878-9) hos quoque sex versus, in prima fronte libelli si praeponendos esse putabis, babe: 'orba parente suo quicumque volumina tangis, his saltem vestra detur in urbe locus. quoque magis faveas, haec non sunt edita ab ipso, sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui. quicquid in his igitur vitii rude carmen habehit, emendaturus, si licuisset, eram' (Tr. 1.7.33-40) The Author's (ideally Rewritten) Text: 'orba parente sue quicumque volumina tangis, his saltem vestra detur in urbe locus. quoque magis faveas, haec non sunt edita ab ipso, sed quasi de domini funere rapta sui, quicquid in his igitur vitii rude carmen habebit, emendaturus, si licuisset, eram (Met. 'preface [Tr. 1.7.35-40]) in nova fert animus mutatas dicere formas corpora ... (Met. 1.1-2) iamque opus exegi ... ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fema, (siquid habent veri vatum praesagia) vivam. (Met. 15.871, 878-9)
The Reader's Text, as was the case of the Reader's Text of the Amores, promotes a linear reading in which readers follow the Metamorphoses as it unfolds from beginning to end. Moreover, in view of the preface that will be offered to readers of the Metamorphoses in Trist. 1.7, the Reader's Text now emerges as a 'preexilic' edition of the Metamorphoses, a 'first edition: as it were, which from the outset directs the reader to follow an exciting epic-scale poem of transformation. By contrast, the Author's Text ideally works both to rewrite the Metamorphoses and to encourage readers to reread that work in the light of a preface that was inscribed in exile and in the specific generic context of elegy as a postscript. One may then contend that with this preface the author is prompting readers to think of the possibility of a 'new edition of the Metamorphoses, an edition that would potentially motivate a rather different reading experience of the main text. In Hinds's words (2006, 436),
Coming after these depressing lines [i.e. 'orba ... eram' Trist. 35-40)], in noua fert animus ... (Met. 1.1) will no longer be able to engender quite the same frisson of excitement that it does in the original version of the Metamorphoses. And, like any preface, this new one will inevitably seek to exercise some influence over the poem as a whole [my emphasis]: by rewriting its opening lines, Ovid will force uws to reread the entire poem in a slightly different light.
But the Tristia-Metamorphoses Author's Text not only sheds light on contrasting modes of reception of the Metamorphoses before and after the poet's exile; it also gives a further angle of interpretation for readers of the Amores. Readers of the Amores who have taken their epigram into account for their reading of the collection can already draw implications from the exile poet's use of quoque (33). Like the hoc quoque of Am. 2.1.1, hos quoque sex versos in Tr. 1.7.33 also reads as a cyclical reminder of a performance first motivated by the Amores' preface. The material we are now reading in Tr. 1.7.33-40 is a mnemonic projection of the poet-editor at work, similarly to what we early detected in Am. 2.1.1 via the epigram:
hos quoque sex versus, in prima ironic libelli (Tr. 1.7.33) (19) hoc quoque composui Paelignis natus aquosis (Am. 2.1.1) tres sumus; hoc raetulit auctor opus (epigramma ipsius 2)
Prefaces, then, work to exercise an influence over our reading, and, interestingly, they may also be seen to exercise an influence over other prefaces. In the Amores we could infer a similar and seminal dynamics of rewriting and rereading if we conceive of the prefatory epigram as a postscript transplanted to the front of the collection, as it would technically be the case of the Metamorphoses' preface that Ovid wrote for his Tristia readers.
A close reading of the epigram suggests this very sense of circularity at the microscopic level. I mentioned above that the split in scholarly interpretation on the epigram is partly instigated by the ambiguous character of a text that does not allow for full closure. Both the temporality and teleological structure of this piece strongly suggest that meaning is in every case subject to negotiation. A case in point is the epigram's array of tenses and adverbial structures:
qui modo Nasonis fueramus quinque libelli, tres sumus: hoc fill praetulit auctor opus. ut lam nutla tibi no sit legisse voluptas, at levior demptis poena duobus erit. (epigramma ipsius)
First time readers are here taken back and forth in time by the libelli's effort to articulate what they now are and what they then were (modo ... fueramus ... / sumus, 1-2). The material ahead (three books) is here oddly introduced by appeal to what it previously was--five books. Wedged between two tenses, readers are thus faced by a dilemma: How do we read the books? As three that were then five? As five that are now three? Are we to consider the possible material that is missing and attempt to reconstruct an Amores 1-5? Or should we altogether ignore this alteration of numbers and read the preface as a literary conceit that registers stylistic concerns? Also difficult is our effort to determine the teleological structure of this piece and consequently the manner in which we are to construct our reading roles and place vis-a-vis the books about to unfold. In addition to the ambiguity inherent in books that 'now-are-then-were; readers learn that they are emerging in the equally ambiguous roles of being 'already ... not yet' aware of the voluptas legendi that these books purport to give: ut iam ... at (3-4). (20) If such sense of indeterminacy with regard to our development as readers were not enough, the epigram has already introduced an auctor whose work is in fact the product of textual decrease (cf. augeo (21) and the further contrast in the decreasing order of numbers running from lines 1 to 4: quinque ... tres ... auctor . duobus). All in all, the epigram does not easily lend itself to concrete readings. Nor does it suggest concrete meanings or realities. One can argue, notwithstanding, that an awareness of its ambivalent character and modus operandi does open up a model for reading the collection, especially if one takes the reference to voluptas legendi (pleasure in reading) as a point of departure. Plainly rephrased, the epigram is telling the reader:
You don't know it yet, but you will experience pleasure in reading (voluptas legendi) the poems ahead of you if you picture yourself--as you read them--once you've read them (at iam ... at). This retrospection from your future as reader will give you clues as to what I am trying to say here, here and now, before the Amores begin, though what I am saying to you has been really conceived as an afterthought to draw attention to the ways you can approach the collection--again. (22)
Through a complex teleology and temporality, the Amores' epigram inscribes a desired mode of reading the collection: retrospectively, cyclically, and intensively, as Tristia 1.7.33ff. attempt to do for the Metamorphoses. (23) This approach to reading the Amores, however, is not imposed on the reader, but thrives on the notion of voluptas legendi (3), a highly sexualized and experimental programme for reading piloted by the epigram in all its ambiguity. Like the pleasure of sex, the pleasure of reading this collection would naturally aim for a telos. (24) But pleasure is also experimental, and a process that takes us through paths other than convention suggests. More than giving clues to specific realities that we most likely never get to know, with this preface Ovid encourages attentive readers to approach the Amores much as they would approach the sexual act: alternating, repeating, moving back and forth, remembering and projecting, cyclically deferring the end for the sake of rediscovering the text in the process of reading. (25) All of this makes sense as we go on to inhabit the main text of the Amores, about which the epigram can be seen as a microcosm. As early as Am. 1.1, readers are already in a 'now-then/ already-not yet' interpretative situation, where the epic writer is attempting to get a grasp of his sudden metamorphosis into an elegiac poet. And in Am. 1.2 (esse quid hoc dicam, 1), readers continue to experience a sense of ambiguity as the text begun in the epigram is still struggling to define itself generically and thematically (hoc, 1.epigr.; hoc, 2). (26) A reading climax then comes in elegy 1.3, where readers are abruptly taken from a 'not yet' to an 'already' reading situation as they learn that the puella-less poet-lover of 1.1.19 already is in love: quae me nuper praedata puella est (the girl who has recently made me her prey, 1). (27) But whereas this sense of prevarication might puzzle those who plot their reading from the main text, for those who bear the epigram in mind, a mode of reading the Amores becomes increasingly clearer, for we should now realize that ambiguity, ambivalence, and prevarication are the moods that guide the reading of these poems. Amores 1.5 is a case in point. In this elegy the temporality of Corinna's arrival (Corinna venit, 9) seems to mirror our own arrival as readers of the Amores. This poem articulates both setting and time ambivalently: cf. mediam ... horam (mid hour, 1); pars adaperta fuit, pars altera clausa fenestrae (one shutter of my window was open, the other was closed, 3); aut ubi nox abiit nec tamen orta dies (or when the night has gone and the day is not yet sprung, 6); this never fully allows us to work out whether Corinna is a Catullan goddess or a flesh-and-blood puella. (28) But this is perhaps how we should regard the puella after all: an equivocal figure, much as her auctor and the readers he fashions in his epigram. The reading program controlled by the epigram continues into book 2 and beyond. In book 2 the paella becomes a multiplicity of girls: cf. the ironic non mihi mine placent (I am not smitten with a thousand) back in 1.3.15 to the more confessional omnibus historiis se meus aptat amor (my love fits itself to all the stories, 2.4.44) and later in 2.10 negabas / uno posse aliquem ternpore amare duas (You said that it was not possible for any man to love two girls at once, 1-2) and ecce; duas uno tempore turpis arno (Look! To my shame I do love two girls at once!, 4) and quid geminas, Erycina, meos sine line asolores? (Why, lady of Eryx, do you endlessly double my woes?, 11). Yet, later in 3.12 this multiplicity of numbers is thoroughly reduced to a single unit as the auctor, in all the irony of his task of producer, claims that Corinna is his 'one and only' source of love and inspiration (ingeniurn movit sola Corinna meum [Only Corinna has stirred my genius, 161). We recall, however, that such decreasing order of numbers is first stressed in the epigram (quirtque ... fres ... duobus 1-2, 4), and immediately after in the 'decrease' from 12 to 11 feet in Am. 1.1 (sex mihi surgat opus numeris, in quinque residat (In six numbers let my work rise, and sink again in five, 27]). And given the associations of the poetic opus with male genitalia, (29) and the association of potency with number, one can also think how Am. 3.7 similarly plays with numbers and pleasure in reducing those numbers to zero: nuper bis flaua Chlide, ter candida Pitho, / ter Libas ... / exigere a nobis ... Corinam / me nemini numeros sustinuisse novena (Yet I lately had golden Chlide twice, the beautiful Pitho and Libas, three times without stopping ... I remember Corinna demanded I kept it up for her nine times together, 23-6); and then nostra tamen iacuere velut praemortua membra I turpiter hesterna languidiora rosa (But still my sex lay there prematurely dead, shamefully limper than a rose picked yesterday, 65) and to dominum failis, per to deprensus inerrnis / tristia cum magno damna pudore tuli (You failed your master: I was left weaponless, enduring sad hurt and great embarrassment, 71-2). Examples likes these go on and on in a text that constantly deconstructs itself and its meanings. Yet this mannerism of the text is no longer an issue for those readers who now understand what the preface has already intimated that they know namely, the voluptas of reading this text, like the voluptas scribendi, thrives in an atmosphere and structure of uncertainty like epigram itself.
I have aimed to probe alternative ways of approaching the Amores through the rarely explored viewpoint of their prefatory epigram. Perhaps the most pressing point made throughout this discussion has been that the edge of this text, or for that matter, of any text, matters for both our interpretation of the material it prefaces and our construction as readers. The Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, well-known in Latin American and Spanish literature for making an art form of his prologues, was perceptive when it came to how he viewed the nature of the preface. He argued that when prefaces manage to shun platitudes and other conventions typical of their genre, they allow attentive readers to attain criticism from oblique, and thus potentially untrodden, corners of the text. (30) I suspect that this is very much what Ovid's clever epigram does for readers of the Amores. More than offering a window to editorial or fictional realities, the prefatory epigram suggests itself in all its ambiguity as a microcosm of the poems and their rhythms, while affording readers a unique perspective for grasping the complexities of their text. By failing to incorporate the epigram to our reading, we therefore are not simply pushing this bit of the text to the periphery of the collection; we are also missing the significance that paratextuality potentially has for our criticism and interpretation of it. As a mode of reception, paratextuality cannot and should not be regarded as the absolute code for reading. Yet, in the example of the Amores' preface discussed above, one can see how this approach contributes meaningfully to the question not only of how readers may attain contrasting forms of criticism of a text, but also, and perhaps crucially, of how readers may conceive more critically the complex anatomy of reading. This said, we may then venture to switch perspectives once again, this time from the macrocosm of the Amores back to the interpreter on the edge of the text and come to realize that our mode of reception is always already all the more critical and experimental for taking the preface and its cues into the future of our reading. (31)
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(1.) McKeown 1989, 1.
(2.) Most notably Cameron 1968, 320-33; Jacobson 1974, 300ff.; Syme 1978, 1ff.; Murgia 1986a, 74-94 and 1986b, 203-20; della Corte 1986, 70-8; Holzberg 2001, 88 and 2006, 58-9, though see note 4 below. For a discussion concerning the absence of documentary evidence that may adequately substantiate the editorial history of the Amores, see McKeown 1987, 74-89; see also Hutchinson 2008, 176 with his note 1 for some further thoughts on the subject.
(3.) Noted by Barchiesi 1988, 102.
(4.) Most representative of which are Ginsberg 1983, 7-47; Barchiesi 1988, 101-3; Cameron 1995, 115; Boyd 1997, 143-7; Weinlich 1999, 21-2; Bretzigheimer 2001, 91-5. Holzberg's argument in 2002, 31-4 and esp. 2006, 58-9 and 62-3, is more nuanced. On the one hand, and before offering a structural and chronological analysis of Ovid's early works, he concedes that the epigram is the second edition of the text of the Amores as we have them (2006, 58-9). On the other hand, and after this analysis, he casts a doubt on the second edition issue, pointing out that the epigram's reference to five books speaks more about an engagement with Callimachean poetics ("great book, great evil"; fr. 465 Pfeiffer) and a witty allusion to Horace and Propertius, both of whom published in four-book formats, that is, one book less than Ovid allegedly features in the first edition (2006, 62-3).
(5.) This is rarely done, an exception being Barchiesi 1988, 101-4. His more in-depth analysis of the epigram, however, is directed to the question of the epigram's intertext with Vergil's (spurious?) ille ego qui quondam. Overall, textualist readings of the epigram concentrate on the question of its Alexandrian affiliation and its dialogue with the programmatic pieces of the main text of the Amores. While this article was awaiting publication, it was brought to my attention that a chapter in an Oxford D.Phil. in Philosophy by Francesca Martelli (2007: non vidi) examines the Amores from the perspective of the epigram. I understand that my study differs from Martelli's both in aims and findings, though it shares some encouraging common ground in regarding the epigram as an important framework for reading the collection.
(6.) Unless otherwise stated, translations are my own, or from the Loeb series with adaptations.
(7.) Keith 1989, 327-44; but see now Tsomis 2009, 477-88.
(8.) For instance, Boyd (1997) plots a narrative of poetic immortality in the Am ores and Holzberg (2002, 4611. and 2006, 60-1) reads an overarching plot in the collection which corresponds to the narrative structures of various types of the genre of the "erotic novel," ancient and modern.
(9.) For discussions that question the status of Latin love elegy as a narrative text see esp. Frankel 1945, 26 and Veyne 1988, 50-1. Among those who contend that the genre exhibits elements and characteristics of a narrative text, see Butrica 1996, 98ff.; Johnson 1997, 179-80; Holzberg 2002, 10; and James, 2003, 27.
(10.) Salzman-Mitchell 2008, 34. An anonymous referee of Helios observed that "the stance of Salzman-Mitchell (2008) does not deviate enough from that of Boyd, Holzberg, and Weinlich, because ultimately all three authors consider the individual poems as 'fragmentary parts of a whole: The main difference between the readings offered by Boyd, Holzberg and Weinlich, on the one hand, and by Salzman-Mitchell, on the other, is that the latter uses a theoretical approach (M. Bal's Theory of Narrativity), whereas the other authors don't." But I would argue that the stance of Salzman-Mitchell deviates enough for the specific point I make. A theoretical approach is not the main difference brought by Salzman-Mitchell. White, for instance, Bola! and Holzberg, intimate the possibility of narrative fragmentation in the Anmres, they both dearly excavate plot-oriented accounts throughout the books which aim to construct coherently sequenced parts of a narrative whole (cf. a discourse of poetic immortality in Boyd, an "erotic novel" in Holzberg). By contrast, and while recognizing the possibility of narrativization in the collection, Salzman-Mitchell directs the reader's attention to a key programme of fragmentation in Am.. 1.5, which in her view offers a code for a programme for reading the Amores as "snapshots" in between narrative gaps that the reader may or may not plot together. The strategic point in this juncture of my arguinent is that Salzman-Mitchell's piece illustrates and forms part of .a gradual development and willingness in scholarship (cf. Frankel and Veyne, above note 9) to seek approaches other than the carving of tight plots in order to conceive meaning in collected works. I should emphasize, however, that in my view this development should not be seen to offer the only key for reading the Amores; rather, that the collection allows for alternative readings and a multiplicity of approaches that do not always follow plot.
(11.) See Nauta 2002, 248-90 for an extended discussion of modes of reception in Statius's Slivae; and, arguably less comprehensibly, Newlands 2002, 32-6.
(12.) Roy Gibson, "Ancient Letter Collections as Tailed Autobiography'," 2010 Research Seminar, School of Classics, University of St. Andrews. From Gibson's notes: "Indices for addressees in Pliny can he dated to late antiquity, but [could possibly go] back to Pliny's own hand? See the index that prefaces the fifth-century manuscript of Book 3 in New York, Pierpoint Morgan Library M.462 (reproduced in a facsimile edition by Lowe-Rand 1922)." Gibson gives an idea of what the index looks like:
AD CALUISIUM RUFUM NESCIO AN ULLUM AD UIBIUM * MAXIMUM QUOD * IPSE AMICIS TUIS AD CAERELLIAE HISPULLAE CUM PAIREM TUUM
The index alternates the name of the addressee (in italics) with the opening words of the epistle (no italics). The index precedes the text of book 3 and by itself occupies two pages of the manuscript.
(13.) Harrison 2002, 82: "[F]ollowing Virgil in the Eclogues and Georgics, the poet of the Ainores is clearly constructing a poetics of generic ascent, from love-elegy to tragedy. ..."
(14.) As put by Genette 1997.
(15.) Genette 1997, 2, 11-3, 41, 45; also Dillon 2007, 4.
(16.) On this specific facet of prefaces see Piglia 1986, 194-5. Piglia, an Argentine novelist, critic, and scholar here refers to his own technique of "epiloguing" the prologue: "The beginning [of a book] touches upon all these issues, [esp.] in what direction our reading will go ... These are like traffic signs, such as the indications of entering and exiting from a freeway, it all has to do with the map, with the route page. It seems to me that the beginning of a book has to do with all of these issues. [Hence my] decision to [place the prologue I wrote for Burnt Money as an epilogue ... B] ecause, had I done otherwise, I would have of course encouraged and framed a particular way of reading."
(17.) I am grateful to Duncan Kennedy for discussing this point with me.
(18.) Hinds 2006, 435; and Barchiesi 1997, 262, building on Hinds's proposition for his own reading of Tr. 1.7.
(19.) Note that this process can be taken even further: cf. Tr. 3. 1.7: id quoque; Tr. 5.1.1: hunc quoque ... libellum.
(20.) Cf. McKeown 1987, ad loc.: "Even granted that there is (still) no . ."; or, also possible with the books speaking to the reader: "Though even now you (still don't experience the pleasure of reading the books) yet you will ..."
(21.) OLD, s.v. "augeo," 1 and 2 in particular. Also noted in connection with auctor by McKeown 1987, ad loc. and Barchiesi 1988, 103.
(22.) On the pleasure of reading and the future retrospection of the reader, see Brooks 1984, 22 who elaborates on the concept of the "anticipation of retrospection" that he uses in discussion of (readerly and erotic) desire, and which Kennedy (2008) suggests in his piece on Am. 1.5 is dramatized/narrativized in that poem.
(23.) For a similar teleological configuration inscribed in our reading of Ovidian didactic, see Kennedy 2000, 163ff.
(24.) Kennedy 1993, 50 and 2008, 21 et passim.
(25.) Kennedy 1993, 81-2 and 2008 passim; Heyworth 1992, 59-61; Sharrock 1995, 152; Connolly 2000, 71-98.
(26.) Buchan 1995, 53ff.
(27.) Ovid's use of temporal adverbs such as nuper in Am. 1.3 is not coincidental but has a long intertextual history that goes back to Greek lyric. Nuper does not point to a precise point in time that is, it does not allow the reader to pin down the exact moment the puella of 1.3 enters the Amores, but aims at conveying the idea that eras arrives unexpectedly in the lover's heart. For a study of the temporal adverb in. Horace's Odes, see Ancona 1994, 22-43 and Feeney 1999, 100-1. For a discussion of the use of [delta][~.eta][upsilon][tau][epsilon] in Greek lyric, see Carson 1986, 117-22 and Calame 1992, 14-9. For the notion of lover "wedged" between two tenses, see Barthes 1978, 15.5.
(28.) Hinds 2006, 21.
(29.) Kennedy 1993, 59-60 with his note 15.
(30.) Borges 1975, 8. For a discussion of Borges's poetics of the prologue, much of which is relevant to my discussion of the poetics of Ovid's epigram, see Cajero 2006, 102-8.
(31.) I would like to thank Roy Gibson and Duncan Kennedy for reading early drafts of this paper and improving its final version with characteristically insightful comments, the editor of Helios for his support, and the two anonymous referees for their encouragement and helpful suggestions.
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|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
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