Poetry and Prose

Professor of Classics Joel Relihan has contributed a chapter to A Companion to Late Antique Literature. Essays in the Companion treat a wide variety of forms and genres from the third to the seventh century in a collection of unparalleled breadth, discussing the literatures of eight different traditions: Coptic and Syriac, Armenian and Georgian, Persian and Arabic, as well as Greek and Latin.

Relihan’s chapter is on late Greek and Latin prosimetra, an eclectic spectrum of works written in a mixture of prose and verse. Drawing on his earlier work on Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy, and on the history of Menippean satire in general, Relihan treats the learned symposium (scholars at table), fantastic grammars and encyclopedias (scholars at play), and literary frauds to suggest that the path to modern Menippean satire (for example, Nabokov’s Pale Fire and its footnotes) lies not through the Consolation but through the works of grammarians who doubt the ability of words to convey any stable truth about the world.