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Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose

From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription

Enrica Sciarrino

Publication Year: 2011

In the past decade, classical scholarship has been polarized by questions concerning the establishment of a literary tradition in Latin in the late third century BCE. On one side of the divide, there are those scholars who insist on the primacy of literature as a hermeneutical category and who, consequently, maintain a focus on poetic texts and their relationship with Hellenistic precedents. On the other side are those who prefer to rely on a pool of Latin terms as pointers to larger sociohistorical dynamics, and who see the emergence of Latin literature as one expression of these dynamics. Through a methodologically innovative exploration of the interlacing of genre and form with practice, Enrica Sciarrinobridges the gap between these two scholarly camps and develops new areas of inquiry by rescuing from the margins of scholarship the earliest remnants of Latin prose associated with Cato the Censor—a “new man” and one of the most influential politicians of his day. By systematically analyzing poetic and prose texts in relation to one another and to diverse authorial subjectivities, Cato the Censor and the Beginnings of Latin Prose: From Poetic Translation to Elite Transcription offers an entirely new perspective on the formation of Latin literature, challenges current assumptions about Roman cultural hierarchies, and sheds light on the social value attributed to different types of writing practices in mid-Republican Rome.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-7

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-x

This book treats a moment in Roman cultural history that in the last decade or so has become one of the most contentious areas of discussion in classical scholarship. To put it rather simply, on the one side are those who insist on the primacy of literature as a category for understanding the earliest...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xi-xii

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Chapter 1. Situating the Beginnings of Latin Prose

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pp. 1-37

In this study I take as a point of departure the fundamental claim of cultural studies that the production and consumption of culture are human practices characterized by relations of dominance and subjection. Far from aiming to disavow or sublate philological and literary analyses, I...

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Chapter 2. Under the Roman Sun: Poets, Rulers, Translations, and Power

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pp. 38-77

The most useful fact arising from the debate concerning the ‘invention of Latin literature’ is that the notion of a sudden fascination of an inferior (Roman) culture for a superior (Greek) one is no longer tenable. Not only does this notion rest upon a very essentialist understanding of...

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Chapter 3. Conflicting Scenarios: Conflicting Scenarios: Traffic in Others and Others’ Things

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pp. 78-116

In 168 B.C.E., following his victory at Pydna, Lucius Aemilius Paullus brought Macedonia under Roman rule. Plutarch reports that on that occasion the library of King Perseus was shipped to Rome and became the private possession of Paullus, who donated it to his sons.1 If we are to...

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Chapter 4. Inventing Latin Prose: Cato the Censor and the Formation of a New Aristocracy

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pp. 117-160

While the macro-system of economic and migratory circulation underwent changes as a consequence of military expansion, Rome earned the stature of a capital in part through the massive concentration of cultural commodities in the hands of its most affluent and powerful...

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Chapter 5. Power Differentials in Writing: Texts and Authority

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pp. 161-201

In the Brutus Cicero contends that oratory in Rome was late in its origin and development. Although he infers from episodes of the far past that certain men had achieved brilliant results thanks to their speaking abilities, Cicero remarks that he had never read that any of them was considered...

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pp. 203-208

In many ways the ongoing debate over the early formation of Latin literature has done much to reveal the predicaments that derive from the ‘discursive’ make-up of concepts like authorship, text, literature, and genre. Methodologically, ‘discourse’ draws its force from the feeling...


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pp. 209-228

Index Locorum

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pp. 229-230

General Index

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pp. 231-239

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270639
E-ISBN-10: 0814270638
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211656
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211658

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 1 line drawing
Publication Year: 2011