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Kristina Milnor
Barnard College (New York, NY 10027-6909)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2009 – 12/31/2009

The Literary Graffiti of Roman Pompeii and Their Cultural Contexts

This study concerns the fragments of textual graffiti which survive on the walls of the city of Pompeii, buried in 79 CE by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. In particular, it focuses on those writings which are "literary" in nature: they either quote canonical authors directly, or show the influence--in diction, style, or structure--of elite Latin literature. While previous scholarship has primarily described these fragments as popular distortions of well-known texts, I argue that they must be seen as important cultural products in their own right, since they are able to give us insight into how ordinary Romans responded to and sometimes rewrote works of canonical literature. In addition, since graffiti are at once textual and material artifacts, they also give us the opportunity to see how such writings functioned within the ancient urban environment, as they both create and are created by Pompeians' relationship to each other and the world around them.