Horace is (not) there : a narrative approach to Horace's Sermones (2016)
AuthorsWang, Daleshow all
Horace’s Sermones have attracted so much critical attention in their lives that another study of them seems superfluous. So upfront I confess that as I have read Horace’s Sermones, considered Horace’s Sermones, and tried to write about Horace’s Sermones, I have battled immensely between repeating what has already been said, and trying to write something new. As an approach I have attempted to write about the author of the text: The Sermones. While it has been written as two books, and while we are very aware of the author under whose name they have been organized: Horace, I think there is still space to say something about Horace as an author with a view towards gathering together the text under this title. We have arrived in the 21st century awash with authors and claims to authority. The newest laws being written and codified have to do with copyright, access and distribution rights of various art forms. The lucrative field of pop music has thrust the integrity, or lack thereof, of artists, labels and producers onto the front page. We are in a world with a serious crisis of authority. The term crisis however, betrays a characteristic, common -I think- to contemporary man, and that is to suppose that we live in a time of crisis. A crisis, as we know, is a time of picking and choosing, and even of the fabled ‘hard choices’. We believe we are in a crisis because, we believe, maybe for the first time, that we are all in a position to change the world. This crisis, however, has been around for millennia now. In his first satire of his second book, Horace raises the possibility of censorship for the reader to consider. While he avoids the thrust of the problem by playing on the words ‘lex’ and ‘bonus, malus’ etc., (Horace, 2.1) he still manages to capture the heart of the problem of being an author. Ownership of texts, authority over texts, and responsibility for texts are not obvious ideas that can be solved by placing the name of a person at the start or the end of a text. Decisions, peoples, laws and even one’s very self must be navigated in order to delineate clearly the relation of creator to creation. In this thesis I will be analyzing Horace’s satires one by one in the Books in which we have received them. I will first be delineating the various issues that prevent us from clearly knowing the author. I will also describe and engage with many of the authors who will be constant companions throughout my readings of each satire in Horace’s satirical books. In particular I will be discussing the books as narratives. Not that each poem contains a narrative, as some do and some do not, but as each poem contributes to a larger picture of Horace which I describe as a narrative. I will also be paying particular attention to the voices, which, at various points, enter, interpolate, and interrupt the satirist. The voice of the satirist will then be subjected to both a dialogic and narrative-driven approach. My approach mirrors the shape of my own thesis which will be quite linear (one could even call it a narrative) and will introduce my methodology, and the various other voices I will be engaging with throughout my reading of Horace’s poetry, followed by two chapters dealing with each Book of Horace’s Sermones in turn, and then my conclusions. I will not be analyzing Horace’s Epistulae in my thesis, although there is good reason to include them in a discussion of Horace’s satiric works. This was mostly for time and space. I believe, however, that the Epistulae could benefit from the same style of reading to which I will subject the satires.