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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.