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I, the PoetFirst-Person Form in Horace, Catullus, and Propertius$
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Kathleen McCarthy

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501739552

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501739552.001.0001

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Poetry as Conversation

Poetry as Conversation

(p.38) Chapter 1 Poetry as Conversation
I, the Poet

Kathleen McCarthy

Cornell University Press

This chapter discusses the conversational model of positioning the agency of the poet in relation to the speech and events depicted in the storyworld. This model quite strongly segregates the poet's artistic motivations from those of the speaker by heightening the sense that the speaker is reacting to his immediate context and minimizing his consciousness of the poetic status of his words. Poems structured on this model may or may not give a full picture of storyworld events, but the speaker's language tends to highlight features like questions and imperatives or shorter and simpler sentences. This model can be called “conversational,” not because its style is particularly colloquial, but because it situates the speaker's language as an attempt to meet needs in his social and emotional environment. Significantly, such poems exhibit a high degree of artistic polish and thus offer ample evidence of the poet's artistic agency and motivations, but these discursive features are not linked to the speaker's agency in the storyworld. The overall effect, then, makes clear the distance between the speaker's wholehearted focus on his own world and the poet's careful orchestration of the poetic discourse, thus expressing structurally the distinction between speaker and poet, in spite of the first-person form and in spite of the speaker's characterization as a poet. The chapter then analyzes the poems in Sextus Propertius's first book, which forcefully demonstrates this model.

Keywords:   conversational poems, storyworld, first-person speaker, poet, artistic agency, poetic discourse, Sextus Propertius

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