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

By Maria Plaza | Go to book overview

3
Non-Aligned Humour

THE CONCEPT OF NON-ALIGNED HUMOUR
IN SATIRE

The fact that the satirists’ jokes are sometimes beside the mark, contributing nothing to the derision of the object, has been a recurring cause of embarrassment in satire scholarship. I call humour of this kind ‘non-aligned’ because, unlike the kinds of humour discussed in the preceding chapters, it is not tied either to the object (butt) or the subject (persona) of the satire where it occurs. It is a feature which has been regarded as a sign of the satiric genre’s immaturity in antiquity, and it has also led to the curious labelling of individual poems as ‘unsatirical satires’1 or even to assertions of occasional artistic failures on the part of the satirists. Some satire theorists, however, have insisted on the integral role of such ‘nonaligned’ humour in a genre whose essence (as the etymology of its name, satura, indicates) is to serve a generous portion of mixed offerings.2 This second line of reasoning seems much more satisfactory, since it is intrinsically improbable that poets of the stature of Horace or Juvenal should repeatedly include a meaningless and genre-flawing element in their satires. While some qualified readers thus acknowledge the place of non-aligned humour in Roman satire,

1 Cf. e.g. J. Brummack, ‘Zu BegriV und Theorie der Satire’, Deutsche Vierteljahrschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 45 (1971), 276; contra C. J. Classen, ‘Eine unsatirische Satire des Horaz? Zu Hor. Sat. I.5’, Gymnasium 80 (1973), 235–50; the problem is discussed in Heldmann, ‘Wesensbestimmung der Horazischen Satire’, 124–5.

2 Oesterlen, Humor bei Horaz; Mason 1963; Henderson, ‘Satire Writes Woman’ and id., Writing down Rome.

-257-

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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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