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Institute of Classical Studies


The Satires of Persius combine powerful criticism of the moral corruption of Rome under Nero with a rich and innovative style that required commentary almost from his own time. The enduring appeal and originality of his poetry also ensured that the exegetical tradition has been continuous from the first century to the present.

Marginal scholarship and textual deviance examines the origins and history of a major component of the medieval commentary on Persius but also has a larger goal. The volume uses detailed study of Carolingian exegesis of Persius to consider wider questions about the transmission and form of the remains of ancient scholarship on Latin poetry. Through these explorations James Zetzel also considers the nature of textual transmission and the goals of textual criticism in general.

Medieval exegesis is one of the types of text for which post-modernist concerns about the stability of the concept of ‘text’ itself may legitimately arise. Marginal scholarship and textual deviance argues that there is often no ‘original’ to reconstruct no ‘genuine’ text and no one author: there is only variation and a broad range of mutually exclusive but complementary truths. What makes a commentary a commentary a text a text? Are there valid principles to be employed in defining and editing such works?

This is an important and original study for all interested in the survival and transmission of texts in authorship and in reading.

James E. G. Zetzel is Professor of Classics at Columbia University in the City of New York.