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date: 15 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines literature from the perspective of written media in the ancient Roman world: material, format, and circulation. More specifically, it proposes a taxonomy of writing based on a consideration of written media that does not correspond precisely to the modern distinction between literary and documentary texts. The discussion is predicated on two oppositions: the unique versus the reproduced and the enduring versus the disposable. In exploring the various forms taken by ancient writing, the article highlights the symbolic or textual value of a written text that is correlated with the text’s uniqueness and reproduction, transience or permanence. It describes four categories of texts: monumental text, literary text, instrumental text, and communicative text. Finally, it considers institutions that enshrine social classifications of writing, namely, libraries and archives: the former contain literature, the latter documents.

Keywords: written media, ancient Rome, material, format, circulation, ancient writing, monumental text, literary text, literature, documents

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