I tend to read Roman authors who write on less elevated themes at the height of the empire: Martial, Petronius, and Statius capturing moments in a social scene awash with consumer goods and gauche luxury; Tacitus and Suetonius exploring often-unseemly biographies of power and the dangers of conspicuous merit; Juvenal reveling in the exposition of immorality; Persius contorting the tropes of satire; Lucan depicting the preposterousness or impossibility of heroic action. I view their work as internalizing the contradictions of a pluralistic Roman society and finding in these contradictions new literary forms. Moreover, these authors provide a counterpoint to other favorites such as Horace’ Odes and Satires and the Vergilian corpus. One thread that runs through all my projects in an interest in vocabularies of texture and sensation. For instance, in my dissertation, which looks at the epigrams of Martial, I argue that certain images upon which he fixates – greasy kitchen soot, ‘woolly’ fish flesh, bursting bubbles, the straining of wine (to name just a few) – constitute a poetics of material aspirations, financial vehicles, and economic drives. Thus, my fundamental scholarly maneuver is to combine aesthetic readings of Latin prose and poetry with the wealth of insights from socio-historical readings and the broader field of Roman social history.
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