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11. Petronius's Satyrica and the Novel in English

Stephen Harrison

Subject Classical Literature » Latin Literature

People Petronius

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405156875.2009.00016.x


Though scholars hotly debate the point at which the novel emerged (or re-emerged) in Europe as a recognizable literary form (cf. Doody 1996) , that date is sometimes placed (for example, by the influential McKeon 1987) in the second half of the seventeenth century, the very period in which the fullest version of the Latin text of the Satyrica was published (1669), to complete the work we have today, and in which the first vernacular translations appeared (for example, the English version of Burnaby in 1694). But the Satyrica had already excited novelistic imitation in English a century previously, in Thomas Nashe's colorful The Unfortunate Traveller (1594), a picaresque tale with a prosimetric frame and a wide range of literary pastiche and parody, which certainly shows the influence of Petronius (see Kinney 1986 : 341–3, 357–8). In the seventeenth century some imitation of Petronius is evident in the Latin fictions of John Barclay ( Euphormionis Lusinini Satyricon , 1603) and Walter Charleton ( Matrona Ephesia , 1659), while in the eighteenth century Petronian material can be found in the earthier parts of the novels of Smollett (see below); but it was in the nineteenth century, when the novel in England reached its highest prestige and importance as a literary form, that the influence of the Satyrica and Petronius begins to be extensive. In what follows I shall trace ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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