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CJ-ONLINE  January 2010

CJ-ONLINE January 2010

Subject:

CJ Forum Online 2010.01.03 MURGATROYD, Apuleius, Latin Reader

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Apuleius Metamorphoses: An Intermediate Latin Reader. Edited by PAUL 
MURGATROYD. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Pp. x + 151. 
Paper, $29.99. ISBN 978–0–521–69055–3.

Order this text for $29.99 from Amazon.com 
using this link and benefit CAMWS and the Classical Journal:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect-home/classjourn-20

This and previously published CJ Online reviews are at 
http://classicaljournal.org/reviews.php


CJ Forum Online 2010.01.03
 
Paul Murgatroyd (M.) is a knowledgeable Latinist with several literary 
studies of Apuleius under his belt. [[1]] His Apuleius Reader is an 
ambitious and useful textbook appropriate for intermediate to advanced 
Latin students. M.’s stated task may seem at first sight impossibly 
large—to make all of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses except the tale of Amor 
and Psyche available to students who have just finished introductory Latin 
(p. ix). Indeed, the text, even as repackaged by M., might be better left 
to those who have already had Caesar, Cicero or both. But the level of 
linguistic challenge, together with the intrinsic literary interest of the 
work, makes it eminently suited for later second- and some third-year 
university-level students.

It is obvious that a Reader such as this cannot realistically include all 
of the Met., even with the omission of the long fairytale. M. in fact cuts 
out large chunks of text, such as the proem, the Festival of Laughter, and 
Lucius’ sojourn with the catamite priests. But the Reader does manage to 
offer continuous narratives from every Book except 5 and 10. Much of what 
makes the Met. special and memorable is included, such as the stories of 
Aristomenes, Thelyphron, Charite and Tlepolemus, and the Isiac salvation. 
R-rated passages such as Lucius’ night with Photis and the anecdotes of 
adultery also make it in. When an omitted section is crucial for the 
comprehension of the overall narrative, M. supplies a brief English 
paraphrase.

The included passages are nonetheless often abridged (cf. ix). The 
following serves to illustrate M.’s method (1.6 = M. p. 11):

[[ecce Socraten contubernalem meum conspicio. humi sedebat scis<s>ili 
palliastro semiamictus, paene alius lurore, ad miseram maciem deformatus,]] 
qualia solent fortunae decermina stipes in triuiis erogare. hunc talem, 
quamquam necessarium et summe cognitum, tamen dubia mente propius accessi. 
[[“hem,]]” inquam “[[mi Socrates, quid istud?]] quae facies? quod 
flagitium? at uero [[domi]] tuae [[iam defletus]] et conclamatus [[es,]] 
liberis tuis tutores iuridici prouincialis decreto dati, [[uxor persolutis 
<in>ferialibus officiis luctu et maerore diuturno deformata,]] diffletis 
paene ad extremam captiuitatem oculis suis, [[domus infortunium nouarum 
nuptiarum gau|diis a suis]] sibi [[parentibus hilarare compellitur. at tu 
hic laruale simulacrum]] cum summo dedecore nostro [[uiseris.”]]

This is Helm’s Teubner, [[2]] and I underlined the words M. includes. 
[[Double brackets are used to indicate underlined words in this list-serv 
posting.]] By stringing together the underlined portions, one can see that 
while the text is radically abridged, what is left still conveys the basic 
narrative information as well as a taste of the characteristic Apuleian 
style. Anyone accustomed to classical Latin will see something foreign in a 
phrase like scissili palliastro semiamictus. On the other hand, much 
material that would be tedious to students and cause headaches to 
instructors is left out. The resulting text strikes a sensible balance 
between authenticity and readability for classroom purposes. The amount of 
Latin in the Reader, thus considerably reduced, would still keep a good 
intermediate class occupied for a semester.

Each short selection of about 100 words is followed by a set of notes, 
mostly grammatical. Here I appreciate M.’s brevity and his refusal to 
provide translations except when absolutely necessary. Proficient students 
will have all the help they need with these notes and the comprehensive 
vocabulary at the back. Those who need to work hard, on the other hand, 
will be forced to do so without the crutches they may have come to expect. 
The notes are occasionally followed by suggestions for basic grammar review 
keyed to Wheelock and the Oxford Latin Course. But students who are ready 
for this Reader probably will not need this.

A distinctive feature of the Reader are the sections entitled 
“Appreciation” that follow every episodically arranged set of excerpts 
(usually corresponding to roughly 10 chapters of Met.). These are mostly 
brief discussions (each about 1–3 pages long) of the overall narrative 
structure, and specific examples of Apuleius’ literary art as seen in the 
preceding excerpts. More literary-minded students will enjoy reading the 
passages on their own, and they may sometimes be examined in the classroom 
with profit. But while what M. says is pertinent and displays an admirable 
critical acumen, it is disappointing that references to secondary 
literature are few and far between. In these sections, as well as in the 
brief “Introduction” (in which M. races through Apuleius’ life and 
works, the ancient novel, and the literary and religious contents and 
contexts of Met.), the citations are sparse. The typical undergraduate 
language student today will not be required to come up with a professional 
research paper in a class that uses this Reader. But the reality of higher 
education today is that such a class often includes graduate students from 
contingent fields (and, sometimes, ambitious undergraduates). On the 
linguistic side, this Reader is eminently suited to those with a 
professional need to begin reading Ammianus, Tertullian or Erasmus. M. 
might have produced a perfect resource for such students, had he offered a 
bit more guidance on secondary literature. [[3]]

In sum, M. has produced an excellent textbook for adventurous teachers and 
students who want to explore Latin prose literature somewhat different from 
the normal classical fare. The Reader will be especially welcome in 
classrooms where serious wrestling with Latin is expected and encouraged. 
If advanced and ambitious students want to explore issues raised by the 
text, they will need additional help, But M.’s aim was clearly to produce 
a Reader rather than a research guide, and in this he has succeeded.

AKIHIKO WATANABE
University of California, Davis
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[[1]] See P. Murgatroyd, A Collection of Translations into Latin Verse and 
Original Compositions (Lewiston, 1991), for his linguistic expertise.

[[2]] It is a bit surprising that nowhere does M. say what his Latin text 
is based on.

[[3]] Cf. the “List of Works Cited” on pp. 150–1. Here the absence of 
the long-running Groningen commentaries (e.g. W.H. Keulen, Apuleius 
Madaurensis Metamorphoses Book I: Text, Introduction and Commentary 
(Groningen, 2007), reviewed by Cueva in CJ-ONLINE 2009.08.06) is especially 
surprising. Although it is an online resource, the Petronian Society 
Newsletter (http://www.ancientnarrative.com/PSN/index.htm) might have also 
been mentioned as an essential research tool on the Greco-Roman novel.


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