Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.7.6


Heinz Hofmann and Maaike Zimmerman (edd.), Groningen Colloquia on the Novel Volume VII. Groningen: Egbert Foster, 1996. Pp. x + 151. ISBN 9069800950.

Contributors: John Birchall, Guiseppe Zanetto, Lucia Galli, Maria Kardaun, Rudy Th. van der Paardt, Ahuvia Kahane, Elisa Mignogna, Nancy Shumate, Peter Habermehl.


Reviewed by Warren S. Smith, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, wsmith@unm.edu.

This is the seventh in the series of volumes arising out of the 'Groningen Colloquia on the Novel' which have been held in Groningen, usually every spring, since 1986. These colloquia in turn have helped spawn a distinguished series of commentaries on Apuleius' Golden Ass which began to be published in Groningen in 1977, and related volumes such as Aspect's of Apuleius' Golden Ass, ed. B.J. Hijmans and R. van der Paardt (Groningen: Bouma's Boekhuis 1978) which has become a standard reference work in its field.

In the current volume there are no outright losers, but some of the contributions are stronger than others. The initial essay by John Birchall, "The Lament as a Rhetorical Feature in the Greek Novel," is a careful tracing of laments in the novel to the practices of the Greek rhetorical schools in late antiquity. Laments can be reduced to a series of five stylized features, Birchall argues, including "an address; often a comparison between past and present; asyndeton; simple sentence structure; and rhetorical questions" (10). In the case of Heliodorus in particular, Birchall argues that the lament is used in a complicated and sophisticated way to advance the plot. An idea which Birchall could profitably develop further is the connection between laments in novels and tragedy (mentioned e.g. p.5); it appears that when a novelist causes the hero or heroine in a novel to burst into the formal language and style of lament, the effect is to make them move out of their humble prose context to touch base with a higher and more sophisticated genre, sometimes very explicitly and self-consciously; a striking example is the verb epitragodein used twice by Heliodorus of the laments of Chariclea (Aeth. 1.3 and 7.14); the lament is also sometimes used by the novelist as an ironic or comic device (cf. Lamo's lament over the broken rose-beds in Daphnis and Chloe 4.8, quoted by Birchall on p.9; or the expression aulaeum tragicum dimoveto in Apuleius G.A. 1.8; Petronius Sat. 115). Thus the novelist calls attention to the distance between himself and the elevated genres of the past.

The most interesting and controversial essays in the GCN are often those which explore new areas of literary comparison or put modern methods of criticism to the test in unexpected ways. So in the fourth essay of this volume Maria Kardaun with "A Jungian Reading of the Cena Trimalchionis" continues an approach which she had introduced in GCN VI, that is, an attempt through the concepts of Jungian psychology to add new insight to the characters. Her insights are thoughtful but also a reminder of the pitfalls of adhering to a theoretical system too dogmatically. Thus: "To arrive at Trimalchio's house one has to cross water and to pass a (painted) dog. Trimalchio's house shares these features with the underworld, a common symbol of the unconscious" (p.57). Trimalchio's house as underworld seems a fruitful idea (see John Bodel, "Trimalchio's Underworld," in Tatum and Vernazza, eds., The Ancient Novel..., Hanover, N.H. 1990, 63; not cited by K.). But how is it developed? Encolpius enters Trimalchio's house, thereby entering the "unconscious." But to enter the unconscious means "to change irrevocably." As far as we can see, Encolpius does not in fact change, so Kardun is forced to make the plea, "he may still have learned something." In fact it turns out, Trimalchio "represents a shadow in the unconscious of Encolpius," a lurking aspect of his personality; but characters in the novel are all frozen, trapped in their unwillingness to change. Since Encolpius is both character and narrator he becomes the universal Roman satirist who bears an essential likeness to the characters whom he mocks.

Another attempt to look at the Satyricon with new eyes is found in ch. 5, van der Paardt's "The Market-scene in Petronius' Satyricon (Sat. 12-15)". Here Encolpius and Ascyltos are trying to recover the gold coins they have sewn into the lining of an old cloak. They recover the cloak, but whether they actually recover the money is left in doubt by the fragmentary nature of the scene. Van der Paardt concludes that the "Shadowy Market [is] Petronius' own version of Plato's Cave," a morality play on the nature of appearance and reality in which a dirty cloak may actually conceal a treasure. If Apuleius (he seems to reason) can write as a philosophicus Platonicus in disguise, why cannot Petronius be capable of such depths? This kind of "upgrading" of the message of Petronius is provocative and is consistent with the moody description of the marketplace scene where terms recur of "darkness," "seeming," and "appearance," adding a dream-like, almost surreal quality.

Chapter 6 is Ahuvia Kahane's "The Prologue to Apuleius' Metamorphoses: A Speech Act Analysis." The prologue to the G.A. is a fertile field for narratologists, Isisologists, and others trying to find in its cryptic language the clues to the meaning of the novel. Who is the speaker? An unreliable trickster, according to Kahane, one in fact who has so undermined our trust in him by the end of the opening paragraph that we can no longer expect him to be responsible for anything (86). The prologue analysed as a speech-act shifts "from promise to command."

Kahane claims, or pretends, to take the power of the prologus so seriously that he warns us to "beware" of him and fears that we may suffer if we disregard his advice, as Psyche suffered for not listening to Cupid. Fair enough. But I hope that Kahane is at least partly saying this with tongue in cheek. The G.A. is entertainment if it is anything. With the tricks of Apuleius' prologus Kahane might compare the sly dodges of a Plautine prologue (which also alternates between promises and demands) or, closer to home, the drollery of Apuleius' contemporary Lucian who, at the outset of the Vera Historia, cheerfully warns us that we can expect nothing but lies from him.

In Chapter 8, "Darkness Visible: Apuleius Reads Virgil," Nancy Shumate starts from the idea of a parallel between the Charite episode in the G.A. and the Dido episode in the Aeneid (vengeance and furor out of control) to argue that "[w]hat we have in the second half of the epic and of the three books of the novel immediately preceding its sudden change of course in Book 11 is a cataclysmic movement whose foundation is laid in the Dido and the Charite episodes" (p.111). This view admittedly involves a "pessimistic" reading of the Aeneid, according to which social laws are shown to be unstable and Aeneas himself becomes no better than his enemies; it also assumes that Apuleius read the Virgilian world as forming a theoretical basis for his own. A structural comparison of this complexity cannot adequately be developed in an essay of this scope, and the theory, while eloquently set forth, does not leave the feeling that it is the last word. In particular what is needed is a reminder that Apuleius is playing a subtle internal game of his own beyond his references to external sources, balancing against each other characters and themes from early and late parts of the novel; such considerations are better developed by Shumate in her important Crisis and Conversion (Michigan 1996).

My comment on the remaining four essays will be more brief. In Chapter 2, "Textual Criticism of Longus and Lessico dei Romanzieri Greci," Guiseppe Zanetto shows how the LRG, which is now complete from alpha through omicron, can be used in the textual criticism of Daphnis and Chloe. To give a single example: en koile nei at 2.29.1 has been called in question by several editors as supposedly an odd expression for "in the holds of [many] ships," but the LRG confirms its use in that sense by Longus by revealing a similar use in Chariton 3.3.14 and 8.3.4. However, one wonders in this case whether the new lexicon was really necessary. Despite Zanetto's claim that "[t]he Liddell-Scott-Jones Lexicon is in this case of no assistance, because neither sub voce koilos nor sub voce naus is the expression koile naus recorded" (p.23), in fact it is so recorded: L-S-J on koilos, lines 3-4, reads "(later k. naus hold of the ship, Hdt.8.119, X. HG 1.6.19, D.32.5...)"

Chapter 3 is by Lucia Galli, "Meeting Again: Some Observations About Petronius Satyricon 100 and the Greek Novels." "Second encounters" by the same characters in a novel are discussed: in particular, the meeting with Encolpius and Giton with Lichas and Tryphaena on shipboard, and the claim of the latter pair to have had forewarning of the encounter in two separate dreams. There is a close reading of this episode by P. Karglund in CQ 39 (1989) 436-450, to which Galli refers and is clearly indebted; he adds to its information slightly by comparing similar episodes of second meetings, and of double dreams, in the Greek novels, thus suggesting the possibility that Petronius' scene is based on an episode from a lost novel.

Chapter 7, "Carite ed Ilia: Sogni di sogni" is by Elisa Maignogna. She argues that Charite's dream in Apuleius G.A. 4.27 is modelled on Ilia's dream of her father Aeneas in Ennius' Annales fr.1.29. Since there is ancient evidence that Ennius depicted a tragic ending for Ilia (drowning in the Tiber), the reader of the G.A., knowing this precedent, may come to expect similar tragedy will befall Charite. But my doubts are renewed again about the knowledge to be gained by drawing an epic precedent for part of Apuleius' plot; especially here, where we know so little about the context of Ennius' passage.

Finally, ch. 9, Peter Habermehl's Quaedam divinae mediae potestates, looks at the discussion of demonology in Apuleius' De Deo Socratis (to his extensive bibliography on this work I would add the essay by C.S. Lewis in The Discarded Image, Cambridge 1967, 40-44). Apuleius is described as "oblivious to the dark side of demonic lore" (135). Yet in an appendix on "demonology in Apuleius' other works" several horrific passages about demons and revenging spirits of the dead are quoted (Apologia 64.1 and G.A. 9.29-31). This comparison is slight, but a reminder that much more study is needed of the integration of ideas between Apuleius' philosophical, rhetorical, and prose fiction works, and Habermehl's essay calls attention to some of the issues which need to be considered in such a study.

Sadly, we are told that the GCN, held again this spring, will now be on hiatus until the year 2000; but at that time it will be renewed with vigor in a new form as ICAN III, the third truly international conference on the ancient novel.