Victoria Hodges (Rutgers University)
As many scholars have noted (Rimmell 2006; Freeman 2014; Barchiesi and Cucchiarelli 2006; Bartsch 2015), the satirical body provides a means through which the poet is able not only to engage with and consume a self-referential generic precedent, but also to provide a literary antidote for societal ‘fleshiness’ and violability. Through this lens, the satirical body functions as an interpretive framework used to flesh out and configure the poets’ moralistic principles (Barchiesi and Cucchiarelli 2006). While Juvenal’s own physicality is largely absent from his poetry, the satirist uses elegiac topoi in order to characterize satirical poetry itself as a body to be exchanged, segmented, and ultimately sold to ensure literary subsistence and posterity. Through his use of the triangular relationship between elegiac lover, procuress, and puella, Juvenal’s poetic production becomes, not a divinely inspired process of procreation and generation, but a mercenary one, dependent upon sexual viability and literary promiscuity. Although the subject of Juvenalian greed has been explored in recent years (see Smith 1989, Larmour 2005, and Nappa 2013 for discussions on Sat.12), scholars have yet to appreciate the ways in which Juvenal subverts and reestablishes the generic relationship between financial independence, elegiac sexuality, and satirical production in his seventh satire.
In this satire replete with remunerative metaphor and concerns about poetic sterility, Juvenal compares contemporary poetic production to the reproductive body (7.48, carving ‘grooves in thin dust’ tenuique in pulvere sulcus; 7.49, turning up ‘the shore with a sterile plough’ litus sterili versamus aratro; for sulcus and aratrum see Adams 1982). In this configuration, composing satire has become an abortive ‘disease’ (7.52, scribendi cacoethes) which threatens, and ultimately induces, literary sterility. Searching for financial stability and literary productivity, Juvenal’s contemporaries engage with the elegiac genre by marketing their ‘virginal’ poetry (7.87, intactam…vendit) to clients, by promising the day for sale (7. 84, promisitque diem), and by satisfying ‘the strong desire of the crowd’ (7.85, tantaque libidine volgi). In Satire 7, the poet has become less the elegiac lover capable of inducing wealthy patronage and generating material, and more the insatiable procuress paradoxically responsible for subverting and prohibiting poetic gratification and creativity (for elegiac resonances, see Prop. 2.6 and Tib. 4.5). Much like the elegiac procuress undermines the sexual success of the poet, the satirist’s commercial ingenium proves to be the generic impediment to his own literary posterity.
Incapable of producing enough funds to pay for subsistence, the satirist’s lack of wealth (aeris inops) is harshly juxtaposed to the financial independence and bodily satisfaction of his literary predecessor (7.62, satur est cum dicit Horatius ‘euhoe’), whose ability to mine, smelt, and mint his own poetic coinage (7.53-55, cui non sit publica vena / qui nil expositum soleat deducere nec qui / communi feriat carmen triviale moneta) protects him from the consequences of meretrician opprobrium and commercialized poetry. In Satire 7, Juvenal creates the inaccessible ideal of an intact and self-producing genre (7.96, tunc par ingenio pretium), capable of achieving literary as well as financial success.