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Literature and the Infrastructure of Literary Life.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Rob Mc Cutcheon

Literature and the Infrastructure of Literary LifeWhat is Literature In our society literature is a written work valued for superior or lasting artistic meritThere is no equivalent word in Latin for this definition of literatureThe closest word is litterae which literally means the letters on a pageHowever litterae can also refer to various types of what regard as literary genres but this word can capture a much wider range of genres many of which as do not normally consider literary What are Litterae In our society literature generally tends to be separated from other types of writings due to artistic intentions andor general fictionality of the workIn the roman world neither fictionality or artistic intentions necessarily make a work literaryo Examples Lucians civil War and Caesars Gallic WarsThis defining element of literature for Romans that is what defines litterae is its ability to survive and endure on its merits as a piece of worko Horace Odes 330 I have built a monument more lasting than bronze Literature in all eras is a much result of a mode of production as it is a mode of reception The Genealogy of Latin Literature Latin literature has two separate points of originCarmina Conviviliao These were songs performed at aristocratic symposiums drinking parties o None survive to the modern world since they were not written downo Cicero talks about them Gives a secondhand account If only those songs survived in which according to Cato in his Origines banqueters many generations before his own time sang in turn the praises of famous men Brutus 75That highly esteemed authority Cato said in his Origines that it had been the custom among our ancestors for those gathered around the table to sing in turn to the pipe the praises and deeds of famous men It is thus clear that there were then tunes assigned for the sounds of voices as well as lyrics Tusculan Disputations 43Both are examples of mos MaiorumexemplumThe importation of Greek genres of literatureo In 240 BCE at the ludi Romani Livius Andronicus put on the first Greek style plays as part of these games o However Livius is most famous for his translationadaptation of Homers Odyssey into Latin in Saturnian verse Makes several changes In the first line instead of calling on the muses he calls on an Italian fertility goddessIn homers version there are many demigods Livius changes their titles to councilor of the gods Livius more or less taken as the creator of Latin literature The Genesis of Latin LiteratureRomans heavily borrowed from the Greeks and very much modeled their literary culture on that of the GreeksLiterary discourses in roman society was always the result of a complex interaction between both native Italianroman culture and adaptationborrowing from Greek culture
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