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Negotiating Allusions in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius

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dc.contributor.advisor Roberts, Deborah H. Breitenfeld, Paul Brucia 2019-09-02T22:41:30Z 2019-09-02T22:41:30Z 2019
dc.description.abstract Scholars have come to recognize over the last few decades that Apuleius’ novel, the Metamorphoses, must be allowed to enjoy multiple, coexisting interpretations. To that end, I demonstrate how a certain class of allusions, those which recall the language of referents but invert the contextual purpose of those words, can be read as hermeneutically parallel. I argue that Apuleius’ readers could have followed their own path of interpretation based on their personal experiences, using a theoretical lens which combines postcolonialism and allusion. The allusions I examine all grapple, in some way, with complex questions of identity and power in the context of Roman imperial subjugation of the provinces. As Apuleius was himself an elite African who lived and worked in Carthage, he was in a position in which he could write for and empathize with both powerful Roman colonizers, whose exploitation of natives brought Apuleius’ family to prominence, and local Africans, with whom he shared a rich cultural background marked by Roman intrusion. Some could read these allusions as either playful or imperializing jokes, or as pointed commentary regarding the effects of imperialism hiding behind a veil of comedy, depending on what each reader was predisposed to see. This paper aims to string together three allusive sections of the Metamorphoses: the prologue in Book 1, the myth of Cupid and Psyche in Books 4–6, and the tale of the death of Charite in Book 8. When these are read together, certain themes begin to emerge: the repeated misapplication of philosophical arguments, the difference between the imitation and mutation of words, and the ever-looming presence of Rome and Carthage as both explicit locations in the empire and novel, and as battlefields, past and present. These aspects of the text reveal how interpretive confusion can be translated into programmatic unity. Apuleius’ novel becomes meaningfully accessible not just to the rich and powerful, but also those who wished to be free of the violence which marks every occupation. Ultimately, the parallel readings I delineate demonstrate how Apuleius can be read as a witness to the complexities and realities of imperial domination.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of Classics
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Apuleius. Metamorphoses
dc.subject.lcsh Allusions in literature
dc.subject.lcsh Imperialism in literature
dc.title Negotiating Allusions in the Metamorphoses of Apuleius
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Bi-College users only

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