The Landscapes of Juvenalian Satire

The Classical Studies Program at the University of California, Santa Cruz presents Professor David Larmour: "'Upon this blasted heath you stop our way...': The landscapes of Juvenalian Satire" on October 19, 2018.

September 19, 2018

Classics Library, Cowell 239
October 19, 2018  |  4 PM

I will offer some thoughts on the devastated landscape—moral, linguistic, ideological, and philosophical—of Juvenalian satire. "Juvenalian" is that form of the satiric genre which depicts a world and language at zero point, whose repetitive and incremental style brings the reader to comprehend the moral devastation around him. One might speak of "a plague of satire" in this context. At the end of Satire 1 and its tour of Rome, the speaker tells us that things are already firmly set for posterity (1.147–48: nil erit ulterius quod nostris moribus addat / posteritas, eadem facient cupientque minores), in a sorry sequence of endless repetition—tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow—with death the vanishing point whither all reflection tends. Yet, this must raise the question as to whether the satirist’s discourse  is not itself futile, since what it demonstrates perhaps most forcefully of all is the meaninglessness, the emptiness, of its own honesty. If the philosophical turn presented in the later books of Juvenal's collection also fails, then what, if anything, remains for the reader in the devastated and depopulated landscape to which the satirist has, in the best Roman tradition, laid waste so effectively and comprehensively?