(B8) The Staging of Political Authorship in the Augustan Age

The transformation of the concept of authorship in late republican and Augustan literature, which discusses Rome’s political and cultic reforms, is the subject to be investigated. Characteristic of Augustan literature is, on the one hand, its attentiveness to questions of the relationship between politics and cult, which was determined by the Principate’s striving for reform and the central position of techniques of staging power. On the other hand, as seers (vates), the poets laid claim to an autonomous legitimacy in competition with cultic and magistral institutions; this legitimacy allowed them to define past and future in respect to the present and was supposed to secure them recognition as public agencies.

Myth exegesis – in its correspondence to or divergence from politically motivated interpretation – and commentary upon the cultic constitution of the contemporary Roman world is found in various genres and will be examined with respect to the changed self-image of the author. Complementary to each other will be an investigation of prose authors who subject the political and cultic topics to Hellenistic concepts of science (the writing of history, scholarly specialised writing), and the analysis of various texts (prose / poetry) as witnesses to a contest full of tension between literature and politics over the sovereignty of interpretation. Primary questions concern the models of actual or ideal relations between politics, cult, and literature drafted especially by the poets as commentators on Augustan religious politics, and the meaning they apportion to the self-staging of political instance as reformers of the cult in Rome (for example, Horace and the elegy of love). Of special interest for this investigation of literary discourse in a time of cultural transformation will be the question of how the new concepts of authorship and Principate affected the role of the recipient in the process of literary self-understanding. This is also true of the question of which processes of increasing or decreasing relevance for the reader’s collaboration in the writings become manifest (for example in the development of genres up to normative modes of speech in which the rhetorical Trias of communication can be unilaterally weakened).

Authorship and the staging of authorship in non-literary contexts thus turns out to be a paradigmatic concept for the determination of relations between the various cultural fields (literature, politics, religion) from the late republican period to the early imperial era, allowing us to trace the transformations of Roman culture within changes in the self-perception and self-image of authors, whose self-authorisation imitates the model of concentration of power in the Princeps just as much as it questions the justification of this model.