Metamorphosis of Language in Apuleius

A Study of Allusion in the Novel
Ellen D. Finkelpearl
A study of allusion in Apuleius' enigmatic novel


Ellen D. Finkelpearl's Metamorphosis of Language in Apuleius studies the use of literary allusion by the Roman author Apuleius, in his second century C.E. novel the Metamorphoses, popularly known as The Golden Ass. Apuleius' work is enticing yet frustrating because of its enigmatic mixture of the comic and serious; a young man is transformed into a donkey, but eventually finds salvation with the goddess Isis. Finkelpearl's book represents the first attempt to place Apuleius' allusive practices within a consideration of the development of the ancient novel.

When Apuleius wrote his Metamorphoses, the novel—indeed the very concept of fiction in prose—was new. This study argues that Apuleius' repeated allusions to earlier Latin authors such as Vergil, Ovid, and Seneca represent an exploration on his part of the relationship between the novel and more established genres of the era. Apuleius' struggle with this tradition, Finkelpearl maintains, parallels the protagonist's move from an acceptance of the dominance of traditional forms to a sense of arrival and self- discovery.

An introductory chapter includes general discussion of the theory and practice of allusion. Finkelpearl then revisits the issues of parody in Apuleius. She also includes discussion of Apuleius' use of Vergil's Sinon, the Charite episode in relation to Apuleius' African origins, and the stepmother episode. Finally a new reading of Isis is offered, which emphasizes her associations with writing and matches the multiformity of the goddess with the novel's many voices.

This book will be of interest to scholars of literature and the origins of the novel, multiculturalism, and classical literature.

Ellen D. Finkelpearl is Associate Professor of Classics at Scripps College, Claremont, California.

Praise / Awards

  • "The readers of the Metamorphoses will definitely find Finklepearl's study a reference work, a rich source of new ideas, challenging and thought-provoking."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review, December 10, 1998
  • ". . . a well-argued, acute, and inspiring discussion of Apuleius' treatment of earlier authors, especially the giants of the Augustan Age, Vergil and Ovid. . . . The readers of the Metamorphoses will definitely find Finkelpearl's study a reference work, a rich source of new ideas, challenging and thought-provoking."
    —Sophia Papaioannou, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "This important contribution to Apuleian studies breaks new ground in studies of the novel, by arguing for a sustained and programmatic allusiveness in the Metamorphoses to match that found in the Augustan poets. This is an intriguing and important interpretation of the Metamorphoses, which deserves to be read and contemplated by all scholars interested in ancient fiction."
    —Tim Whitmarsh, St. John's College, Cambridge, Classical Review, 1999
  • ". . . a pleasure to read and a substantial addition to Apuleian scholarship."
    —Hugh J. Mason, University of Toronto, Phoenix

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 256pp.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 1998
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-10889-3

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  • $84.95 U.S.