The Function of Humour in Roman Verse Satire: Laughing and Lying

By Maria Plaza | Go to book overview

2
Humour Directed at the Persona

All the Roman verse satirists use humour directed at their own persona, although this is potentially a disruptive strategy, since it can ultimately undermine what the persona says, i.e. the entire message of the satire. When carefully employed, on the other hand, self-directed humour can strengthen the authority of the persona and help to win the audience’s sympathy. Various kinds of humour are used against the persona in Roman satire, running the gamut from making him an ironic quasi-author to revealing him as a laughable quasi-object. There are however also distinct limits to the forms this humour may take. This chapter will explore the subtle regulations of persona-oriented humour, as well as the functions this humour performs in its regulated forms.

An important distinction that must be noted is that between ‘selfhumour’ entirely on the part of the persona (he is shown to mock himself) and humour directed at the persona from beyond his horizon, by the implied author (the implied author mocks the persona). The First kind will tend to present the persona as being in full control of himself and his presentation, and so strengthen his authority, the latter kind will present him as overlooking ridiculous faults in himself, as being vulnerable to derision from outside, and so it will undercut his authority. Intimately connected to this distinction is another one, that between mild mockery, which gravitates towards implicit praise of the persona, and harsh mockery, which gravitates towards correction of the persona. Not surprisingly, the mild variety, often in the form of self-irony, is by far the most common in Roman satire, and especially so in Horace, where it can be said to dominate the proWle of the persona. This form of

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The Function of Humour in Roman Verse Satire: Laughing and Lying
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • A Note on Editions and Translations x
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Object-Oriented Humour 53
  • 2 - Humour Directed at the Persona 167
  • 3 - Non-Aligned Humour 257
  • Epilogue- the Genre Devours Itself 338
  • Bibliography 342
  • Index Locorum 359
  • General Index 367
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