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Satire, Fiction and Reference To Reality in Jerome's Epistuia 117

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image of Vigiliae Christianae

Satire is essentially a non-fictional literary form. Its point of departure is a real setting, which is directly referred to. But the way satirists magnify certain aspects of the reality they refer to distorts their picture.' Satires therefore are not realistic in the sense of providing reliable eye witness accounts of given situations. But they usually keep to rules, which provide hermeneutical keys for interpreting them with regard to the reality behind their distortions. How concrete that reality is, whether it just reflects a general or stereotype picture of a society or culture in a given age or whether the satire is directed against concrete historical figures, has to be established individually. The text discussed in the following has to be treated with such questions in mind. It is extant as a letter, but its addressees are not named and it is doubted whether they were historical figures. At a closer look it turns out to be a satire, but it seems at first sight to lack the concrete context that would give meaning and purpose to a satire. However, if it is a satire, and we may assume it is, it must have that context and we may try to reconstruct it using material provided by this text as well as others in its historical and literary vicinity; and although we may not succeed in finding definite answers to all the questions raised by this text, we hope nevertheless to shed some new light on this gripping little piece of ancient Christian literature.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Theology, Australian Catholic University P.O. Box 247 Everton Park, Q, 4053, Australia


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