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Satire and the Threat of Speech

Horace's Satires, Book 1

Catherine M. Schlegel

Publication Year: 2005

In his first book of Satires, written in the late, violent days of the Roman republic, Horace exposes satiric speech as a tool of power and domination. Using critical theories from classics, speech act theory, and others, Catherine Schlegel argues that Horace's acute poetic observation of hostile speech provides insights into the operations of verbal control that are relevant to his time and to ours. She demonstrates that though Horace is forced by his political circumstances to develop a new, unthreatening style of satire, his poems contain a challenge to our most profound habits of violence, hierarchy, and domination. Focusing on the relationships between speaker and audience and between old and new style, Schlegel examines the internal conflicts of a notoriously difficult text. This exciting contribution to the field of Horatian studies will be of interest to classicists as well as other scholars interested in the genre of satire.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v

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pp. vii-viii

Roman satire, once relatively neglected, enjoys more attention from Classicists these days than it has perhaps since the eighteenth century. Our appreciation has surely changed in temper since that era which prized urbanity, but the protean nature of Roman satura serves our own preoccupations...

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Introduction: Satire and the Threat of Speech

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pp. 3-18

The violence of Roman public life has a canonical beginning in 133 BCE, when Tiberius Gracchus, the tribune of the Plebs, was murdered by his political opponents. The person of the tribune was designated as sacrosanct by Roman tradition, and there is a special alarm in this murder that inaugurated a course of increasingly bloody political solutions...

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1. The Limits of Satire, Iam satis est: Satires 1.1–3

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pp. 19-37

Satires 1.1, 2, and 3 are called the “diatribe satires,” because they conform to the cajoling moral philosophy that is the pattern of diatribe, or as Albin Lesky defines it, “the propaganda speech declaimed with sharp wit and aggressive satire and enlivened with polemic in fictional dialogues...

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2. Horace and His Fathers: Satires 1.4 and 1.6

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pp. 38-58

No ancient poet offers the sense of affectionate intimacy that Horace grants to his readers with his account of his father and his upbringing in the Satires. It is consequently with some initial regret that readers recognize that Horace tells us very little about his life, and that furthermore the...

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3. Practicing Theory, or, Perils of the Open Road: Satires 1.5

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pp. 59-76

From the theoretically equivocal situation of satire that Horace presents in Satires 1.4 follows Satires 1.5, a poem quite free of any of the rambling commentary and contradictory diagnoses that abound in the previous poem. Altogether different in kind, it tells the story of a journey Horace...

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4. Satire as Conflict Irresolution: Satires 1.7

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pp. 77-89

This chapter contends that within the satirical view of Satires 1.7, words may act as the equivalent of blows, containing no more reason and giving rise to no more justice than Billy Budd’s inarticulate fist. The seventh poem in Horace’s first book of...

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5. Talking Heads and Canidian Poetics: Satires 1.8

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pp. 90-107

In Satires 1.2.68–71, a man’s penis speaks to him about the folly of his desires, pointing out that his own sexual requirements (the phallus’s) are far more reasonable than his host’s.1 The satiric landscape in which Horace works has changed since Satires 1.2: the talking phallus...

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6. Auditor—Adiutor: Satires 1.9

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pp. 108-126

Horace knows the name of his interlocutor in Satires 1.9, but we don’t.1 What we do know of this famously disliked figure in 1.9, we know from Horace, and though we may observe that Horace treats him less than gallantly, no one wants anything to do with him. In not permitting the reader...

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7. Unsatisfying Fulfillments: Satires 1.10 and the End of Satires 1

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pp. 127-143

Horace’s last poem of the first book of Satires, 1.10, needs to do the work of finishing off the book. Horace does this finishing work partly by summarizing what his genre is and how he has done satire. This summarizing takes the shape of a poetic theory consistent with the poetics we find...


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pp. 147-166


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pp. 167-173


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pp. 175-186

E-ISBN-13: 9780299209537
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299209506

Publication Year: 2005