The Closure of Space in Roman Poetics: Empire's Inward Turn


This book concerns the spatial poetics of Augustan and early imperial Roman poetry. Working in an ever-expanding set of new and newly redone genres, Roman writers from Virgil to Silius Italicus conjure all manner of enclosed spaces: nooks, groves, baths, and cages. They write characters into these spaces; often, if not principally, themselves. They introduce light (or the lack thereof), props, colours, sounds, and smells, and they make things happen there. Most importantly, they invite readers into these enclosures, enabling them to feel the pleasures and pains of confinement. This book investigates how poets construct and use these small enclosures within their poems. It looks into the enticements that are on offer within such spaces, in the allure of hiding and escape, security, secrecy, sex, and silence. And it looks into the alternate workings and valences of such spaces as traps, prisons, torture devices, and tombs. Figured by Roman values, such interior spaces correspond to Roman ideas of place, limits, and space. Shaped as they are to fit Romans, these written enclosures have much to tell us about desires and comforts, fears and aversions, in Augustan and early imperial Rome.


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