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Roman elegy makes frequent use of themes of ugliness and disfigurement, juxtaposing them with images of ideal beauty and sentiment. In order to overcome the obstacles to his erotic relationship, the poet-lover repeatedly represents his rivals and opponents in such a way as to ridicule their appearance and to degrade their social standing. This book explores the theme of corporeal, intellectual, and social degradation from a perspective attentive to the aesthetic significance of the grotesque imagery with which such degradation is accomplished. Although there has been sophisticated discussion of the use of grotesque imagery in genres like comedy, invective, and satire, which are concerned in part with themes of transgression and excess, Mariapia Pietropaolo demonstrates that the grotesque plays a significant role in the self-definition of love elegy, the genre in which it is least expected.

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