The Introduction offers a general discussion of ancient Campanian wall-writings in comparison with those of the modern day. Using both ancient sources and modern critical theory, it defines ‘graffiti’ as a category that is unstable across time because of differing technologies of writing, ideas about public and private property, and functions of the written word in the urban environment. The category of ‘literary graffiti’ is also a contrived but useful one, as it pinpoints one of the paradoxes of the Pompeian material: that it is both learned and popular, cultured and coarse, a combination of high art and vulgar act. This means that it presents not just a conceptual challenge to critics, but a disciplinary one, as it sits neatly within the purview of neither historian/archaeologist nor literary critic.
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