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Saturnalian licence and socratic irony

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Chapter Summary

Gellius mock-modest or ironic self-deprecation can be viewed in the light of a subtle rhetorical strategy, used by him to establish himself as cultural authority in an imperial context. This chapter focuses on his choice to present himself in two roles: on the one hand as the young Gellius, sectator of famous intellectuals in both Rome and Greece, and on the other as Aulus Gellius in his role of auctor, writer of Noctes Atticae. The setting of the Saturnalia, combined with the conuiuium as typical site of verbal licence and experiment, additionally underlines the programmatic nature of Cynic wit in the chapter with regard to the Noctes Atticae as a whole. It also illustrates the Gellian agenda behind Apollinaris Socratic irony by its connection of humour and exposure with programmatic teaching on the meaning of words.

Keywords: auctor; Aulus Gellius; cultural authority; Noctes Atticae; Saturnalia; sectator; Sidonius Apollinaris; Socratic irony; verbal licence

10.1163/ej.9789004169869.i-364.17
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