Can a proper name be translated? Or a signature?J. Derrida, ‘Limited Inc. a b c’, Glyph 2 (1977), 167
The essential fact to keep in mind when dealing with these problems is that we have the institution of proper names to perform the speech act of identifying reference.J. Searle, Speech Acts (Cambridge 1969), 174
Two sets of ‘autobiographical’ text that span the transition from the first principate into the second—the Res Gestae Diui Augusti and the poetry of Ovid's exile—offer a rare opportunity to compare the contemporaneous self-portraits of the politician and poet whose careers have evolved in tandem up until this point. Yet where scholars have studied the interactions between these texts, they have tended to overlook the parallels between the self-fashioning strategies deployed by their respective authors in favour of a hunt for corroborating historical data.
A recent book by Michele Lowrie challenges us to treat as part of the same problematic the authorising claims made in texts as ostensibly disparate as these. In this study, Lowrie balances her exploration of how the literary productions of the Augustan era responded to its social and political upheavals, reflecting and refracting the performative powers that were being used to effect political transformation at this time, against the efforts made by Augustus to appropriate the self-fashioning strategies exemplified by the poets. Her focus on how Augustus' own manipulation of the media replicates the modes of authorship practised by his literary contemporaries thus makes the social energies circulating across cultural boundaries in Rome at this time appear as traffic in a two-way street. With this work, then, we have been given a new incentive to treat the authorial names and authorising claims of Augustus and of the ‘Augustan’ poets as a package-a prompt to which I will respond in this article by unpacking the signatures of ‘Naso’ and ‘Augustus’ as a twin pair. I will therefore be looking to the Res Gestae and to the poetry of Ovid's exile in order to see how the authorial signatures of poet and princeps fare alongside each other at this defining moment of the Augustan principate; and will attempt to refine the theoretical framework required in order to plot the ways in which these different types of signature play off one another.