Abstract This study examines a recurrent scenario in Roman poetry of the first-person genres: the separation of the poet from his writing tablets. Catullus' tablets are stolen (c.42); Propertius' are lost (3.23); Ovid's (Am. 1.11––12) are consigned to disuse and decay by their disappointed owner. Martial, who does not reproduce the specific narrative of loss, nonetheless engages with the tradition of lost tablets from within the fiction of festive gift-exchange in his Apophoreta (14.1––21): rather than losing or rejecting the tablets, he gives them away to guests/readers at his Saturnalian party. I argue that the representation of writing tablets and their loss is involved in the production of authorial presence. The scene of lost tablets demonstrates how the poet retains the capacity for poetic speech even when deprived of the aid of his material medium. The ostensibly accidental and sometimes lamented loss of the poet's tablets thus contributes to a sophisticated strategy of authorial self-representation. The tablets do not so much stand for the literary text as provide a focus for metapoetic concerns with voice and writing, author and text, presence and absence, immortal ingenium and expendable materia. Examination of the shifting representation of writing tablets from Catullus to Martial will provide insight into the invention of the Roman poetic author.
- Copyright ©© 2006 by The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.