CJ-ONLINE Archives

August 2009


Options: Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Reply To:
Classical Journal On-Line <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 19 Aug 2009 10:49:14 -0500
text/plain (101 lines)
Apuleius Madaurensis Metamorphoses Book I: Text, Introduction and 
Commentary. Edited by W.H. KEULEN. Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius. 
Groningen: Egbert Forsten, 2007. Pp. 569. Cloth, €125.00. ISBN 

Previously published CJ Online reviews are at 

CJ Online 2009.08.06

Wytse Keulen’s commentary on the first book of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses 
is an impressive example of careful, painstaking and thoughtful research. 
It is the latest volume to appear in the Groningen Commentaries on Apuleius 
series and is in line with the fine quality of the previous publications. 
The contents include a preface, introduction, note to the text, the Latin 
text of Book I, commentary, two appendices, bibliography and indices (index 
rerum, index nominum et verborum, and index locorum). The “note to the 
text” explains that, like previous volumes of the Groningen Commentaries, 
this volume uses the third edition of Helm’s 1931 text, which was 
reprinted with Addenda and Corrigenda in 1955. In his commentary, Keulen 
(hereafter K.) adds capitals at the beginning of sentences, uses 
Robertson’s paragraph numbers, and varies from Helm’s text at 34 points 
(listed on pp. 50–1).

The work consists of four major sections. The Introduction covers a wide 
variety of topics (not listed as presented by Keulen): the programmatic 
nature of Book I; the structure of the novel (spatio-temporal, overall, 
framing tale, inner tale); a plot summary; Onos; rhetorical program of the 
novel; rhetoric, genre, contemporary literary education; the narrator; 
landscape, language, and literature; Lucius’ urbanitas; fictional 
content; fabula Graecanica; “trash” in Antonine literature (Milesiae, 
quisquillae, nugamenta); “Fiktive Mündlichkeit”; satire; hospitality 
(inns, use and misuse); storytellers (πολυπράγμων and 
λογοποιός); symposiastic banter and religious storytelling; 
murder; “sexual exhaustion” and “wet rituals”; and a scrutiny of 
Lucius as aristocratic hero and flattering parasite. The Latin text of Book 
I, which is nine pages long, follows. The thorough, 405-page commentary 
explicates almost every question, complexity or issue that arises in the 

If one were to quibble with the Introduction, one might object that while 
Keulen writes that it is “meant as a guide for the reader, to help 
her/him place the text and the commentary in a wider interpretative 
context” (p. 3), the entries are at times too concise, at times 
confusing, and leave the reader wanting more. For example, in section 
“1.3 Book 1 and the Onos,” K. notes that the “correspondences between 
Apuleius and the Onos begin in ch. 2, where the opening of Lucius’ 
narrative is roughly equivalent to the first chapter of the Greek 
epitome” (p. 7). The thread of the Greek text is picked up again in 
21–26 and the sections “more or less correspond with Onos 2–3.” 
Relying heavily on H. Van Thiel’s 1971–1972 Der Eselroman (pp. 63–7), 
K. observes that both texts have a “strong atmosphere of comedy” in 
them. But in the commentary section scant reference is made to the Onos 
again for those passages in Metamorphoses 21–24. Perhaps K. thinks that 
the work of Van Thiel and others is sufficient in the comparison between 
the Latin and Greek texts. Or it may be that he is so focused and 
methodologically centered on trying to cover every challenging word or 
phrase that he loses sight of the some of the content in his Introduction. 
This is not so much a criticism, however, as proof of the meticulous detail 
with which K. covers Book I. More commentaries should take a similar 

The commentary itself can only be said to be remarkable. I spent weeks 
pouring through every section of the commentary and found nothing that 
appeared unusual or incorrect. For each section K. supplies the Latin text 
in question, an English translation and background information, and then 
offers an in-depth clarification of the passage using a myriad of old and 
new scholarship. All in all, this is an admirable piece of work.

As for the two appendices (“The figure of the ianitor,” and “The 
repulsive sounds of a stinking old cynic: rancidus [1, 26, 6 (24, 13)]”), 
in the former, K. shows how “the performance of the ianitor serves the 
aims of the text to entertain through sudden reversals … it elucidates 
his role as a comic figure by comparison with literary antecedents and 
parallels” (p. 468). The ianitor is a figure from the comic stage, 
inverts roles and crosses boundaries, serves as a figure of transition, 
should not be relied upon for authority, and is the instrument of fortune. 
In the second appendix, K. studies the literal and figurative connotations 
of the adjective rancidus (physically, stylistically and as part of 

This is a terrific book. The bibliography is up-to-date and includes most, 
if not all, relevant scholarship at the time of print. The text will have 
more appeal more to the graduate student than the undergraduate, but it 
will serve the Metamorphoses researcher tremendously.

University of Houston-Downtown 

If you have been forwarded this review, you may subscribe to the listserv 
by sending an email to: [log in to unmask]
Leave the subject line blank, and in the first line of the message write: 

You may remove yourself from the CJ-Online listserv by sending an email to: 
[log in to unmask]
Leave the subject line blank, and in the first line of the message write: