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Pliny And The Encyclopaedic Addressee

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Chapter Summary

This chapter seeks to re-consider the features of Pliny's Preface, and it will argue that the humorous paradoxes in Pliny's approach to Titus, together with his apparent modesty about the HN itself, should be read as a sophisticated exercise in defining a problematic addressee and then turning him into the reader Pliny wants him to be. The opening epistle takes an encyclopaedic approach, both to the predecessors and models whom Pliny lists, incorporates and eclipses, and to the imperial addressee, whom he figures as the unlikeliest reader of the HN and then enlists as a publicist for Pliny's table of contents - that beneficent mechanism which allows readers to avoid reading the encyclopaedia in the first place. Pliny's only real nugae are his playful prefatory thoughts, but even in them he means business.

Keywords: encyclopaedic addressee; humorous paradoxes; Pliny



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