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Nox Philologiae

Aulus Gellius and the Fantasy of the Roman Library

Erik Gunderson

Publication Year: 2009

In this strikingly original and playful work, Erik Gunderson examines questions of reading the past—an enterprise extending from antiquity to the present day. This esoteric and original study focuses on the equally singular work of Aulus Gellius—a Roman author and grammarian (ca. 120-180 A.D.), possibly of African origin. Gellius’s only work, the twenty-volume Noctes Atticae,is an exploding, sometimes seemingly random text-cum-diary in which Gellius jotted down everything of interest he heard in conversation or read in contemporary books. Comprising notes on Roman and classical grammar, geometry, philosophy, and history, it is a one-work overview of Latin scholarship, thought, and intellectual culture, a combination condensed library and cabinet of curiosities.
            Gunderson tackles Gellius with exuberance, placing him in the larger culture of antiquarian literature. Purposely echoing Gellius’s own swooping word-play and digressions, he explores the techniques by which knowledge was produced and consumed in Gellius’s day, as well as in our own time. The resulting book is as much pure creative fun as it is a major work of scholarship informed by the theories of Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, and Jacques Derrida.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page

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Editor's Title Page

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pp. vii

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Editor's Preface

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pp. ix

Now that the first printing of this volume has long since become generally unavailable and is only to be found with some difficulty on the dustiest shelves of select antiquarian bookshops, the hour has perhaps arrived to make the Nox Philologiae broadly accessible once again for the...

Original Title Page

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pp. 1

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The Author's Preface: Verfremdungseffekt

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pp. 5-7

. . . they can find other, more agreeable pursuits. And so also do I worry about the future, about the fate of books and bookishness, of children and childishness. Is it our business to relax, or are we to indulge in perpetual study? Is the distinction in fact distinct? Are the bibliophile's...

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The Other Preface: Again and Again

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pp. 8-17

The Oxford Classical Text of the Noctes Atticae contains two praefationes. One begins with the words Omnium qui extant Gellii codicum uetustissimus idemque optimus est codex rescriptus Vaticanus Palatinus 24 (A) litteris rusticis saeculo quarto scriptus.1 ...

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The Third Preface: Gellius's Preface

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pp. 18-44

Enough beating around the bush. Let us read. Let us read Gellius reading. Let us look for the rules of the game as set forth by Gellius as he opens his text. This is an important, a necessary task. But it is also a difficult one: the opening remarks of Gellius both are and are not adequate to what follows. ...

Table of Contents

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pp. 45-51

Volume One

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Book One: Authority

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pp. 55-98

Accounts of language circulated in antiquity. However, it is probably inaccurate to describe these as theoretical, as "theories of language." Such a designation would imply that language was a discrete object, that it was a self-contained thing to which the mind might apply itself in...

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Book Two: Logic

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pp. 99-131

Ratio is a complex word. It has many different meanings. It straddles a variety of different semantic fields. It participates in a wealth of idioms. As I have already discussed, for an ancient scholar of Latin, the first association upon hearing the word ratio would likely be analogia and etymologia. ...

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Book Three: Usage

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pp. 132-165

As with ratio, so with usus: the case is analogous. The uses of the word "use" are many and varied. They cover a number of semantic fields. There are various idiomatic phrases in which the word participates. Usus is the actual use of a thing or the means of potentially using a thing. ...

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Book Four: Index of Names

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pp. 166-201

My lemma is taken from Porphyrio's commentary on Horace's Epistles.1 I have chosen a commentary on dramatic characters to open my commentary on characterization in Gellius. Porphyrio is explaining a passage from Horace. Horace, though, is writing a letter to Caesar. ...

Book Five: Index of Things

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pp. 202-221

Volume Two

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Book Six: Books of Books

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pp. 225-251

If the figure of the painter in Velázquez's Las Meninas helps us to appreciate the problem of Gellius as author and character, the Noctes itself is nevertheless not just like that one canvas. It also resembles a number of Magritte's (non)paintings: La trahison des images and La condition humaine, for example.1 ...

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Book Seven: Authors of the Author

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pp. 252-286

Auctoris Auctores: the phrase plays roughly the same game as libri librorum. Is this "the authors of the author" or "the author's authors." Who is the subject of the implied verb "to author" and who the object? The action is reciprocal, reciprocum...

Book Eight: Readers of Readings

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p. 287-287

Appendix: It Was to Be/It Is to Be

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pp. 288-298

Unplaced Fragments

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pp. 299-304

Spurious Fragments

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pp. 305-306

Bibliography [Includes List of other works in series]

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pp. 307-313

E-ISBN-13: 9780299229733
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299229702

Publication Year: 2009