Genevieve Lively (Bristol), Playing for time: Narrative and/as Nostalgia in Tibullus
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In recent years, the conventional view of Roman elegy’s “anti-narrative” status has been brought into question and its complex narrative strategies subjected to new scrutiny. Certainly, in contrast to the genre of epic, elegy seems particularly antithetical to narrativity: where readers of epic narratives might look for consistency of viewpoint or voice, for unity of time, place or action, for plot and progress, for time passing and movement toward a final telos, readers of elegy find instead inconsistency and disunity, time stopped and plot development arrested. But this does not tell us the “whole” story about elegy’s narrativity or its narrative potential. Readers of Propertius, Tibullus, Sulpicia and Ovid continue to see stories where there are supposed to be none, tracing narrative arcs within and across individual episodes and poems, identifying characters and their particularized roles, recognizing unreliable narrators and implied narratees, and negotiating the conflicts and resolutions acted out between poets and their puellae within the elegiac storyworld. In this paper, I will be exploring some of the ways in which that elegiac storyworld is configured, taking as my case study the nostalgic narratives of old Albius Tibullus to demonstrate that nostalgia is one of the key devices upon which Tibullan poetry draws in realising its elegiac narrative potential.
Genevieve Lively is a senior lecturer in the Department of Classics at the University of Bristol (UK). She has particuløar research interests in ancient (especially Augustan) narratives and in narrative theories (both ancient and modern). She has recently completed a monograph for OUP's Classics in Theory series on Narratology and have published two books on Ovid: A Reader’s Guide to Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Ovid's Love Songs. She also co-edited Elegy and Narratology: Fragments of Story. She has also worked on the classical tradition, chaos theory, and cyborgs.