Desire between male friends in Latin poems : in search of a sub-genre of homosocial erotic poetry




Lee, Wing Chi

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Latin erotic poetry is an important genre recording surviving examples of male friendship. This report argues that a specific group of poems involving the poet and his powerful friend should be identified and studied separately as a sub-genre. Drawing examples largely from Horace, Catullus and Propertius, I argue that homosocial erotic poetry exploits the same repertoire of generic conventions as erotic poetry, but reshapes some of them for different functions. To articulate the erotic emphasis and the generic concern of this report, Eve Sedgwick’s notion of “homosocial desire” (1985) is introduced. The concept of homosociality is useful in revealing how male desire in our sub-genre has an erotic tinge and functions to foster the social bond of male friendship, but precludes the homoerotic possibility. Chapter One introduces the important terms and methodology chosen for this study, while Chapters Two to Four define and describe three distinctive features of the sub-genre. Chapter Two is devoted to showing that sermo amatorius, the “love speech” often featured in romantic relationships, can be assimilable to the structure of male homosocial relations. Chapters Three and Four examine how the sub-genre reshapes the recusatio and the topos of wealth to negotiate the tension of desire between the poets and their powerful friends. Ultimately, this report argues that male homosocial desire motivates the sub-generic conventions and thereby the seemingly disparate poems constitute a coherent sub-generic classification.




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