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Epic Tradition

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Study Guide

Apuleius, Metamorphoses
or The Golden Ass

Be familiar with the following terms, characters and places:

Milesian Tale
Socrates and Meroe
Hypata, town in Thessaly
Milo Pamphile Photis
Byrrhena Thelephron Festival of Laughter
Lamachus (recalls 5th c. B.C. Theban general)
Alcimus ("Strong")
Thrasyleon ("Lionheart") and Demochares ("People-Pleaser")
Psyche ("soul") and Cupid
Charite ("Grace") and Haemus/Tlepolemos
Thrasyllus (thrasus="rash, hasty")
Cenchreae, port of Corinth
Zachlas, priest of Isis

1. How does the author maintain our interest? In other words, what story-telling techniques does he employ to create in us suspense, surprise, fear, and sympathy or dislike for different characters? How do these techniques differ from Homer's or Vergil's?

2. How does Apuleius structure his novel? How does he link stories together and keep us from thinking we are simply reading a collection of unrelated short stories.

3. What is the relationship between teller and listener in these tales? How does audience within the novel (including Lucius) react to individual tales? Is there a difference between Lucius as narrator and as listener? How does this compare with Odysseus' telling of his travels in Odyssey 9-12 or Aeneas' account of the fall of Troy in Aeneid 2-3?

4. Examine one tale and explain how it acts as a microcosm of the entire novel and incorporate themes that are present throughout the novel?

5. Some say that the novel is essentially a religious allegory about the death and rebirth of Lucius' soul. Others believe that the stories are there only to entertain. A third group would prefer to look at the novel primarily in human terms and rationalize the magic and divine apparatus. What do you think Apuleius' purpose is? Why? What in the text supports your position?

6. What role does magic play in these tales and what role do the gods play? To what extent would you say that Apuleius is a true believer in the gods of Homer? What role does Fortune play in the Golden Ass? Does it cause action in the novel? Is it paralle to Fate in the Aeneid?

7. Certainly the idea of journey is present in every work in the course. What is the hero searching for in each narrative? Even if the goals are different, does the hero accomplish his goal in the similar ways in each work? In what ways is Lucius like Odysseus or Aeneas or Tayo and in what ways not?

8. Like Tayo in Ceremony, Lucius= journey is shaped by his meetings with strong female characters: Pamphile, Byrrhena, Charite, Isis. To what extent does gender shape Lucius= world?

9. We have seen the shift from epic poetry to prose narrative in the course. How does the difference between poetry and prose affect Apuleius' narrative? How does he recall epic techniques or styles or themes? How are they transformed? For example, what happens to invocation, simile, apostrophe, and catalogue in Apuleius' novel? What difference does it make that Apuleius and Silko wrote primarily prose instead of poetry?


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