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PersiusA Study in Food, Philosophy, and the Figural$
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Shadi Bartsch

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226241845

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226241982.001.0001

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The Cannibal Poets

The Cannibal Poets

Chapter:
(p.15) Chapter One The Cannibal Poets
Source:
Persius
Author(s):

Shadi Bartsch

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226241982.003.0001

Persius plays off the Ars Poetica of Horace, his predecessor in satire, by changing Horace’s condemnation of the badly integrated poetic corpus into a literal description of bad poetry as mutilated bodies. Further metaphorical sleight of hand allows him to suggest that reading or reciting bad poetry (these mutilated bodies) is akin to a form of cannibalism, especially if one is “eating” the literary tradition only to “vomit it up” in a derivative form. Persius manipulates the central metaphor of digestion here to link medical injunctions against culinary missteps to the idea that listening to unhealthy forms of verse might be equally bad for one’s health. The meatiness and omophagia that are made to characterize certain poetic forms recall the meat-eating feasts of epic, a genre Persius abjures; likewise, the notion of the poet as a hungry belly is made to problematize all poetic efforts that seek profit the praise of an audience. The etymology of the word “satura” may have been “a plate of rich food,” but Persius goes against the grain in claiming that his own writing is precisely the opposite of such gastropoetic excess.

Keywords:   Ars Poetica, belly, gaster, indigestion, consumption, cannibalism, Thyestes, satura, Attius Labeo, ut picture poesis

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