Leering for the Plot: Visual Curiosity in Apuleius and Others
This paper will analyze several of the most famous inset scenes of watching and of ‘the arrested gaze’ in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. Particular attention will be paid to the novel’s one most studied scene of ecphrasis, as well as to several of the work’s most visually explicit erotic scenes, and to the Vision of Isis in Book 11. Analysis of these scenes will show that watching is consistently patterned in the novel, figured as a problem of sexual curiositas, even in scenes that are not explicitly sexual in content. With great consistency these scenes invite us to observe the transformations not only of characters acting inside the story, but of inset viewers who are transformed by the act of watching. By problematizing watching in this way, the novel invites us to consider visual fascination as a problem that we share with Lucius. Through the act of reading we are fully complicit in his curiositas.
Kirk Freudenburg is Professor of Classics at Yale University. His published works focus mainly on the Roman satirists and the poetry of Horace. Currently he is writing a commentary on the second book of Horace's Sermones for the Cambridge Green and Yellows, and he is editing a volume of essays, Oxford Readings in Horace II: Sermones and Epistles.