The satiric effect in Horace's Sermones in the light of his Epicurean reading circle
Hicks, Benjamin Vines
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Scholarship on Roman satire has been dominated for nearly fifty years by a rhetorical approach that emphasizes the artifice of the poet. Consequently, it has been unsure what to do with the philosophical material in Horace's Sermones. In my dissertation, I argue for the importance of Epicurean philosophy in the interpretative scheme of Horace's satiric oeuvre. Epicurean ideas appear prominently and repeatedly, mostly in a positive light, and respond to the concerns and philosophical prejudices of Horace's closest friends. In the prologue, I explore how Horace himself inscribes the process of interpreting and responding to a satire into S. 2.8. He frames his reading circle as key observers in the satiric scene that unfolds before them, suggesting the importance of the audience to satire. Chapter one builds upon this vision by emphasizing reader response as a key element of satiric theory. Satire, as a participant in the cultural debates of its day, orients itself toward a like-minded group of readers who are expected to grasp the satiric thrust of the text and understand its nuances. It orients itself against outsiders who respond seriously to the text in some fashion, often failing to realize that satire is even occurring. I term this process the satiric effect. Chapter two demonstrates that Horace's closest friends in his reading circle share connections to Epicureanism. The social dynamics of reading circles reinforce my theoretical emphasis upon the satiric audience. Vergil, Varius, Plotius Tucca, and Quintilius Varus studied with the Epicurean philosopher Philodemus whose treatises also offer insight into the social dynamics of an Epicurean circle. Chapter three explores how Sermones I articulates itself toward Horace's reading circle. Given the Epicurean biases present within Horace's reading circle, I explore an interpretation through the lens of these Epicurean preferences. Chapters four and five emphasize that the philosophical themes initiated by Horace in the first book also run through the second, making it more cohesive than previously thought, but only become apparent when we consider them from the particular mindset of the reading circle. I conclude by noting possible extensions for my literary theory in other authors.