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Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage

From Plautus to Chaucer

Warren S. Smith, Editor

Publication Year: 2005

Advice on sex and marriage in the literature of antiquity and the middle ages typically stressed the negative: from stereotypes of nagging wives and cheating husbands to nightmarish visions of women empowered through marriage. Satiric Advice on Women and Marriage brings together the leading scholars of this fascinating body of literature. Their essays examine a variety of ancient and early medieval writers' cautionary and often eccentric marital satire beginning with Plautus in the third century B.C.E. through Chaucer (the only non-Latin author studied). The volume demonstrates the continuity in the Latin tradition which taps into the fear of marriage and intimacy shared by ancient ascetics (Lucretius), satirists (Juvenal), comic novelists (Apuleius), and by subsequent Christian writers starting with Tertullian and Jerome, who freely used these ancient sources for their own purposes, including propaganda for recruiting a celibate clergy and the promotion of detachment and asceticism as Christian ideals. Warren S. Smith is Professor of Classical Languages at the University of New Mexico.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page

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pp. vii-x

The essays in this book examine satiric attitudes toward women and marriage in later classical literature, starting with Plautus (ca. 200 B.C.) and continuing into the Christian era as far as Walter Map (twelfth century A.D.)...

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pp. xi-xii

The idea for this book began to take shape at a conference on Apuleius at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, in 1995. The conference was organized by Stephen Harrison, whose work on the Roman novel has always been a model for me. At that same conference, I met Peter Walsh, another of my longtime role models, who later agreed to write...

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One. Satiric Advice: serious or not?

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pp. 1-25

This book includes a series of chapters on satiric advice on women (in particular, sexual involvement with women) and marriage. If the distinctions made between satire against women and satire against marriage (or perhaps against married women) often seem blurred...

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Two. "In a Different Guise": roman education and greek rhetorical thought on marriage

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pp. 26-38

In her excellent book Roman Marriage (1991), Susan Treggiari offers a careful survey of Greco-Roman theories concerning marriage. Her focus, however, is mainly philosophical thought as recorded in the works and fragments of writers such as Xenophon, Aristotle, and Hellenistic thinkers from the Stoic, Epicurean, and Peripatetic schools...

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Three. Marriage, Adultery, and Divorce in Roman Comic Drama

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pp. 39-70

In this chapter, I shall examine three plays of surviving Roman comedy that deviate from the usual paradigm of making marriage or sexual union the goal...

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Four. "The Cold Cares of Venus": lucretius and anti-marriage literature

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pp. 71-91

The extraordinary attack on the passion of love that closes book 4 of Lucretius's De rerum natura (1158-287) seems, when read in its immediate context, a digression from the main theme of the book, which is an explanation of sensory perception...

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Five. Marriage and Gender in Ovid's Erotodidactic Poetry

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pp. 92-110

This statement by Seneca the Younger1 (first century A.D.) expresses an attitude toward marriage that can be called characteristic for the Rome of the late Republic and the early empire. Marriage was considered to be a legal institution that would guarantee the continuation...

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Six. Advice on Sex by the Self-Defeating Satirists: horace Sermones 1.2, juvenal Satire 6, and roman satiric writing

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pp. 111-128

The Greek and Roman comic traditions embraced the marriage joke early and ubiquitously and took a firm, unequivocal stance. Susarion of Megara, of uncertain date but, according to tradition...

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Seven. Chaste Artemis and Lusty Aphrodite: the portrait of women and marriage in the greek and latin novels

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pp. 129-153

In a discussion of adultery in the nineteenth-century novel, Tony Tanner argues: In a discussion of adultery in the nineteenth-century novel, Tony Tanner argues: The bourgeois novelist has no choice but to engage the subject of marriage in one way or another, at no matter what extreme of celebration or contestation...

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Eight. Dissuading from Marriage: jerome and the asceticization of satire

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pp. 154-181

Although satire is sometimes considered a tactic of social reform,1 Jerome's satirical approach to marriage aims not to reform the institution but to warn Christians-especially Christian women-away from it entirely.2 Christian devotees, presumably already "reformed," are here shamed and coerced into lives of supererogatory renunciation...

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Nine. Change and Continuity in Pagan and Christian (Invective) Thought on Women and Marriage from Antiquity to the Middle Ages

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pp. 182-209

So, in his fifty-fourth epistle, De monogamia, addressed to the Roman aristocrat Furia, Jerome cites pagans as models for his Christian addressee. In doing so, he enters into an intellectual (semi)alliance with paganism that seems at odds with his usual combative...

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Ten. Walter as Valerius: classical and christian in the Dissuasio

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pp. 210-221

Walter Map's Dissuasio Valerii ad Ruffinum partakes of a twelfth-century craze. Antimatrimonial dissuading was a minor, if widespread, topic of contemporary Latin letters. The foundational example, of course, is Heloise's apparently conversational demonstration to Abelard...

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Eleven. Antifeminism in the High Middle Ages

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pp. 222-242

As an appropriate climax to the history of antifeminism in the High Middle Ages, we may instance the long poem called De coniuge non ducenda, which was composed about 1230.1...

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Twelve. The Wife of Bath and Dorigen Debate Jerome

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pp. 243-270

Critical discussions of the prologue to Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Tale" have sometimes taken it for granted that the wife's arguments are distorted- or "agitated and incoherent"-in contrast with her main source, Jerome's...


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pp. 271-286

List of Contributors

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pp. 287-288


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pp. 289-295

E-ISBN-13: 9780472026296
E-ISBN-10: 0472026291
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472114269
Print-ISBN-10: 0472114263

Page Count: 308
Illustrations: 5 illustrations
Publication Year: 2005

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Satire, Greek -- History and criticism.
  • Satire, Latin -- History and criticism.
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400 -- Characters -- Women.
  • Women and literature -- History -- To 1500.
  • Satire, Medieval -- History and criticism.
  • Marriage in literature.
  • Women in literature
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, d. 1400 -- Political and social views.
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