Epistolarity in the First Book of Horace's Epistles
Horace's, First Book of Epistles, has traditionally been approached, either for its philosophical content, or in order to explore the question whether the poems are "real" letters or not. Those who answered positively tended to view the Epistles as documents of Horace's life; those who answered negatively emphasized their being poems, sometimes linking them too narrowly to the Odes or the Satires. But a distinction between "real" and fictitious letters is not so clear and self-explanatory as it is commonly regarded to be; indeed, such a question can be left unanswered, and is irrelevant to the appreciation of Horace's Epistles in their peculiarities of form and content. There is no doubt that the Epistles present themselves as letters, starting from the title (which there are no strong reasons to doubt), and by employing epistolary formulas; at the same time they are verse letters, and make no mystery of being refined poems. But if we distance ourselves from the issue of "reality," the poems' refinement will not appear in contradiction with their "epistolarity," that is, with the fact that they are cast in letter-form. This book focuses on the epistolary features of the Epistles, reading them from points of view related to the epistolary form: the weight of the addressee, the dialogue between literary genres, the poet's self-representation, temporality, and the power of the author. These issues also pertain to literature as such, since all literature can be regarded, to a certain degree, as "epistolary." But the extent and consistency with which the Epistles explore epistolary aspects, can only be explained in terms of their generic affiliation.
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