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The Ancient Emotion of Disgust
Transactions of the American Philological Association 131 (2001) 217�255 Humiliation and Immobility in Apuleius� Metamorphoses Donald Lateiner Ohio Wesleyan University Introduction Men (and women) of Mediterranean classical cultures, like other face-to-face cultures, negotiated status by demonstrations of honor and inflictions of shame. They developed highly articulated systems of affront, abuse, and insult to advance agendas and to retard or dismantle perceived competitors. �Dissing��glares, hand-gestures, verbal insult, spitting, punching and otherwise mauling peers�punctuated personal, family, and political quarrels. Modern treatments of the �poetics� of verbal violence, pushful behaviors, and physical brawling encourage new study of parallel situations in ancient social history and in classical texts.1 1Relevant classic anthropological studies of status-management include: J. G. Peristiany, ed., Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society (Chicago 1966); P. Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, R. Nice, trans. (Cambridge 1977; French original 1972); M. Herzfeld, The Poetics of Manhood: Contest and Identity in a Cretan Mountain Village (Princeton 1985); D. D. Gilmore, ed., Honor and Shame and the Unity of the Mediterranean (Washington, D.C. 1987). W. I. Miller, Humiliation, and Other Essays on Honor, Social Discomfort, and Violence (Ithaca 1993) is a humane survey with special reference to Norse literature. R. S. Miller, Embarrassment: Poise and Peril in Everyday Life (New York 1996), provides a psychological perspective indebted to Erving Goffman�s micro-sociology. For classical Athens, one might begin with D. Cohen, Law, Violence, and Community in Classical Athens (Cambridge 1995), less rosy a picture than G. Herman, �How Violent was Athenian Society?� in R. Osborne and S. Hornblower, eds., Ritual, Finance, Politics: Athenian Democratic Accounts Presented to David Lewis (Oxford 1994) 99�117, but still too rosy. E. Eyben, Restless Youth in Ancient Rome, P. Daly, trans. (London 1993; Dutch original 1977) 98�127 provides Roman comparanda and bibliography. Note that dishonored Athenian and Roman victims (bringing a suit) have usually left more evidence and argument than the alleged perpetrators did. This caution about the 218 Donald Lateiner This paper analyzes Apuleius� portrayal of the contemporary Roman provincial aggressive practices (ca. 160 C.E.) that circumscribe the characters of his one, sui generis novel. In extreme cases, social and physical controls, and even self-policing, shut down the limited Roman liberty of �free agents,� rendering characters immobile, literally or figuratively. We document (through the novel�s incidents of dishonor and immobilization and their attendant vocabulary) Apuleius� �appreciation� of the pervasive infliction of shame in second-century provincial Roman society and in his protagonist�s driven life. Traveling the well-cambered Roman roads in a world of decreasing freedom and therefore mobility, Apuleius� unheroic hero Lucius happily runs into and then becomes entrapped in many macabre culs-de-sac. At the same time he welcomes sexual and religious initiations without full�or any�awareness of their dangerous consequences. Immobility of body and mind is thus both a narrative end-game pattern and a pessimistic theme. Freely chosen and cruelly inflicted paths lead him �from the frying-pan into the fire,� and Lucius finally chooses a permanent form of immobility because his social self has been damaged beyond repair. The Metamorphoses is not a salvation narrative but a firstperson narrator�s consistent and not flattering self-portrait of an engaging but needy and dysfunctional character.2 This paper examines first the strategies of humiliation and embarrassment shown in the novel, particularly examples of and terminology for derisive laughter. Such mirthful mockery signifies to the reader and solidifies for a group some sense of superiority and an excluded individual�s dishonor. The characteristic response of victims of public shaming�inert, self-protective stupefaction�is the second topic of analysis. Third, we consider a particular form of immobility, the �death-like� stillness that darkens Apuleius� pictures of earthly communities. His frequent references to statues and other life-like but invariably immobile images expand the range of tropes of stillness and call into question the honor bestowed by Roman monumentalization. The paper next briefly analyzes various types of Roman spectacle that punctuate important episodes of the victim�s perspective should also affect the reading of Lucius, the mostly passive but hardly innocent protagonist of Apuleius� comic...