This study transforms our understanding of Roman love elegy, an important and complex corpus of poetry that flourished in the late first century b.c.e. Sharon L. James reads key poems by Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid for the first time from the perspective of the woman to whom they are addressed—the docta puella, or learned girl, the poet's beloved. By interpreting the poetry not, as has always been done, from the stance of the elite male writers—as plaint and confession—but rather from the viewpoint of the women—thus as persuasion and attempted manipulation—James reveals strategies and substance that no one has listened for before.
Sharon L. James is Associate Professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
"James shapes a new and original understanding of elegy. The author's agenda of foregrounding the viewpoint of the docta puella should stimulate major changes in the way that these poems are studied."—Judith P. Hallett, University of Maryland, College Park
"James provides a highly original reading of the elegiac genre. Her use of the docta puella as the focalizing point of her reading provides new insight into its fundamental nature…. The book would serve as an excellent introduction to the genre for undergraduates."—Paul Allen Miller, author of Latin Erotic Elegy: An Anthology and Reader
"Learned Girls and Male Persuasion should be required reading for anyone teaching or studying the elegists. . . . [Sharon James] views the genre in the light of social reality, showing us what is ubiquitous and obvious in the poems if we take off the rose-colored glasses of romantic idealism: the facts of violence, rape, and abortion, and, above all, the fundamental tension between the erotic demands of the lover and the economic needs of the puella. Elegy will never be the same again."—Julia Gaisser, author of Catullus and his Renaissance Readers