The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Dog's Dinner

I had a mini-presentation of sorts today on "Formal Verse Satire vs. Menippean Satire" for my "Jonson and Middleton: Elizabethan Satire course." I probably did far more research than I needed to, but I knew quite a bit already about the latter, thanks mostly to Frye, one of the few critics/theorists to go anywhere near the subject (Bakhtin is the only other one I know of, and he predated Frye by about 20 years). In the course of my reading, I again came across and finally the Apocolocyntosis of Seneca, a very obscure work of antiquity. Its title means, roughly translated, the Pumpkinification (of Emperor Claudius).

The other is, of course, Petronius' Satyricon, the only extant part of which is the Cena Trimalchionis, or, Dinner at Trimalchio's. To be completely honest, there are elements of Menippean satire that are missing from that section (too numerous to go into here), but it is an interesting piece. One critic called it the first realistic novel in Europe, and I'm sure Auerbach has similar things to say about it.

I'd like to share one brief, humorous moment from this scene. Here's the context: Trimalchio, a wealthy guy who throws parties, is sitting on his couch when an acrobat boy/slave falls on his chair. This was at a time in history when slaves were beaten or killed for far less. The narrator is expecting some heavy reprisal, but

instead of punishment, there came an official announcement from Trimalchio that the boy was free, so that no one could say that such a great figure had been injured by a slave


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