Blindness and insight. Emotions of erotic love in Roman poetry
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“Reading emotions” may refer to the reading of emotions as well as to emotions that read. This chapter focusses on the latter kind. More precisely, it explores emotions of erotic love in Roman poetry as a precondition for the capability as well as the incapability to see external and internal qualities in the beloved. As shown through a number of poetic passages, such emotions are not primarily observable through visual aspects related to the loving person, but function as a prerequisite that either hampers or enhances the loving person’s ability to see the beloved and—by extension—understand love. Notably, some of the most important connections between emotions and visions in Roman poetry draw on comparisons with visual arts, that of the plastic portrait in particular, such as Pygmalion’s ivory statue. This chapter argues that the more pleasing the erotic emotions are, the more focussed they are on the wellbeing of the beloved, the more the loving subject gains insights into the very concept of love. By thus relating love to sight and insight, Roman poetry concurs with ancient iconography and—most notably—differs from concepts of erotic emotions in later periods, where love is famously represented as blind.