BMCR 2007.06.31

Response: Rudd on Oliensis on Rudd on Stephen Harrison, The Cambridge Companion to Horace

Response to 2007.05.25

1 Responses

Response by

Prof. Oliensis complains that I have misrepresented her attitude to Horace in Chapter 16 of The Cambridge Companion to Horace. As she is the best judge of her own intentions, I duly apologize. I should like, however, to cite a few of the points that misled me.

The essay opens ‘Horace has always been a poet more for men than for women.’ As the argument developed, stressing women’s marginality (221), relegation (223), banishment (226), and effacement (228), I inferred that Prof. Oliensis was illustrating the contention rather than contesting it. For in what he says about women Horace’s virtues are least apparent, and his admirers concentrate largely on other areas. Women, especially in the Satires, are indeed marginal; yet, as men are mostly portrayed there as the slaves of power, glory, money, or sex, one might argue that the relative obscurity of women was an advantage. There are, of course, uncomplimentary references, but I cannot think of any commentor who sees the opening picture in the Ars Poetica as describing ‘a monstrous female nude’ (221). So either they, being men, are all simply crass, or else Prof. Oliensis is being over-sensitive. Again, her paper does, indeed, say that Epistles 1 is ‘engaging’ (in spite of its masculine bias), but ‘brilliant’ does not necessarily imply ‘attractive’ ( Epod. 12, for example, is certainly brilliant.). And, on the whole, expressions of affection are lacking. The treatment of Odes 4.11, though positive, seems to me to fall short of ‘loving’; and, when one reads that ‘the moment of identification across the gender divide — untinged, for once, by anxiety or hostility — is peculiarly moving (234),’ one has to conclude that this moment is exceptional.

‘The parties at which Horace’s good Romans take a well-deserved break from the stresses of public life,’ (222), ‘the sexually unrestrained women in whose bed he unaccountably keeps finding himself’ (226), ‘Who is out there looking appreciatively or swooningly as the young men strip down … to plunge their hardened bodies into the lambent Tiber?’ (231), ‘It is as if Horace had taken fugitive Cinara’s place, leaving Maecenas to sob alone in his disconsolate cups’ (231), ‘ that decorous policy’ (233) referring to slave labour (233) — if ‘witty sarcasm’ is too strong for such expressions, perhaps Prof. Oliensis would admit to ‘touches of irony’.