The Knotted Thong

Structures of Mimesis in Persius
D. M. Hooley
A much-needed study of allusion in the complex works of Persius


The Knotted Thong fills a long-standing gap in studies of Persius, the famous and famously difficult Roman satirist. The body of work on Persius has for years depended on a few traditional and highly specialized lines of approach, and therefore modern readers have found it difficult to come to close grips with this poet, whose works not only have substantial intrinsic value but also long-standing influence on the community of letters.

D. M. Hooley has now reexamined Persius in the light of developments in contemporary critical thinking, particularly that which builds upon imitation theories in classical studies. Addressing each of the six Satires as well as the introductory "Choliambics," Hooley contends that one of the most conspicuous features of Persius's verse, its allusiveness, is a key to this view. The long-recognized, exceptionally high frequency of imitations of and allusions to the works of Horace and others can be seen not as a mark of artistic immaturity, but as a technique intended to engage other voices in the expression of a poem's meaning. Seen as an aspect of structural and thematic strategy, the pattern of Persius's engagement with the words of other poets reveals a remarkable and hitherto unregarded coherence in the Satires.

Within this frame of allusive indirection, Persius's relationship with Horace is seen to be particularly crucial. Horace, as is generally acknowledged, is Persius's "major model." Hooley shows Persius recasting the words of his predecessor, readdressing his own relationship to the inherited voice of Horatian poetry, and so reformulating the terms of satire itself. Persius constructs a radical revision of satiric thought through a pervasive and, paradoxically, destructive "imitation" that operates within the tension of Horatian mastery of the form and the inadequacy of Horace's satiric vocabulary in the social climate of Neronian Rome.

The Knotted Thong: Structures of Mimesis in Persius will be of interest to scholars and students in classical studies, modern literature (especially satire and its history), and comparative literature.

D. M. Hooley is Associate Professor of Classics, University of Missouri.

Praise / Awards

  • "Daniel Hooley knows Persius well, and he has drawn intelligently on the scholarly tradition from the seventeenth century to the present; he has written a valuable study of Persius that, while concentrating on the issue of Persius' relationship to his literary models (principally Horace), has a great deal to offer on Persius as a whole. . . . Hooley's book serves as an excellent introduction to the pleasures and difficulties of reading Persius, whom he treats with affection as well as intelligence."
    —James E. G. Zetzel, Columbia University
  • "Hooley's book is rugged and difficult, like his author. It is also the most important critical study of Persius since Bramble's Persius and the Programmatic Satire (1974). I recommend it strongly to 'ears that have been steamed open' by the study of Roman or later satire."
    —Kenneth J. Reckford, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, American Journal of Philology, Summer 1999
  • "[Hooley] is a very good and sympathetic reader of a difficult poet. . . . [He] has an impressive knowledge of the literature on Persius: it is a pleasure to find a critic who makes intelligent use of Casaubon and Dryden as well as of more recent scholarship. Hooley's book serves as an excellent introduction to the pleasures and difficulties of reading Persius, whom he treats with affection as well as intelligence."
    —James E. G. Zetzel, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "Hooley offers a detailed, subtle, and engaging analysis of these poems [from the young poet Persius] to show a coherence hitherto unrecognized and a more complex degree of engagement with the satirical tradition (especially Horace) than previous studies have indicated. . . . Hooley provides a refreshing new perspective on these difficult poems."
  • ". . . indispensable for any serious study of Persius."
    —Cedric Littlewood, Phoenix
  • "This substantial new reading of Persius is the product of concentrated and mature critical reflection through a couple of decades; the writing is studied, elaborately turned, eve overcooked; in a word, this intelligent book has heart."
    —John Henderson, King's College, Cambridge, The Classical Review, 1999

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 304pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10792-6

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  • $85.00 U.S.