An examination of modern theories of the epigram, from Scaliger to Lessing and through to the twentieth century shows that they identified, as one important feature of the genre, a strictly logical kind of relation between the first part of the poem and the second, with the second drawing a conclusion from the first in an often witty, ingenious or openly comic fashion. This way of interpreting the epigram can only be applied satisfactorily to a part of comic epigrammatic poetry, and much less so to the serious type, and has contributed to an unjustified reduction of the typical epigram to mere witticism. Martial is usually considered the author who was most successful in producing this form of comic epigram based on the manipulation of logical processes. But as is known to modern theorists, verbal humour is produced not only by logical techniques, inherent to witticisms, but also by processes of mimesis and caricature, pertaining to literary representation. These two different forms of humour had already been examined by ancient theorists of discourse techniques, as is shown here through an analysis of Cicero and Quintilian’s treatments of the use of comic elements in oratory. Martial, a friend of Quintilian and an admirer of the epigrammatist Domitius Marsus, who had written a treatise on the orator’s urbanitas employed by Quintilian himself, was certainly aware that these writers recommended the combined use of the two different kinds of humour. And in fact Martial, while making masterly use of logical comic methods to emphasize the contradictions and absurdities of human behaviour, almost always combines them with those of mimesis and caricature. The logical method is not the poet’s primary interest: it lays stress on the essential meaning attributed by the poet to the representation of reality, which is expressed in both the first and second part of the poem as Herder correctly argued in opposition to Lessing.

Marziale e la logica del comico

CITRONI, MARIO
2014

Abstract

An examination of modern theories of the epigram, from Scaliger to Lessing and through to the twentieth century shows that they identified, as one important feature of the genre, a strictly logical kind of relation between the first part of the poem and the second, with the second drawing a conclusion from the first in an often witty, ingenious or openly comic fashion. This way of interpreting the epigram can only be applied satisfactorily to a part of comic epigrammatic poetry, and much less so to the serious type, and has contributed to an unjustified reduction of the typical epigram to mere witticism. Martial is usually considered the author who was most successful in producing this form of comic epigram based on the manipulation of logical processes. But as is known to modern theorists, verbal humour is produced not only by logical techniques, inherent to witticisms, but also by processes of mimesis and caricature, pertaining to literary representation. These two different forms of humour had already been examined by ancient theorists of discourse techniques, as is shown here through an analysis of Cicero and Quintilian’s treatments of the use of comic elements in oratory. Martial, a friend of Quintilian and an admirer of the epigrammatist Domitius Marsus, who had written a treatise on the orator’s urbanitas employed by Quintilian himself, was certainly aware that these writers recommended the combined use of the two different kinds of humour. And in fact Martial, while making masterly use of logical comic methods to emphasize the contradictions and absurdities of human behaviour, almost always combines them with those of mimesis and caricature. The logical method is not the poet’s primary interest: it lays stress on the essential meaning attributed by the poet to the representation of reality, which is expressed in both the first and second part of the poem as Herder correctly argued in opposition to Lessing.
Rideamus igitur: το χιούμορ στη λατινική γραμματεία
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Letteratura latina, teoria letteraria, teoria del comico, generi letterari
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11384/56945
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