Disjoining Meaning and Truth: History, Representation, Apuleius' Metamorphoses and Neoplatonist Aesthetics


  • Ahuvia Kahane


Reading through the relationship between meaning and truth in Neoplatonic philosophy, especially Plotinus, Porphyry, and Proclus, and discussing the work of philosopher Jacques Rancière, this paper attempts to confront anew the problem of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses and the relation of its representations to truth and history. The paper considers especially questions of meaning and truth embodied in the scene of the re-enactment of the Judgement of Paris in Book X of the Metamorphoses and the paradoxes of “mute” speakers. Looking at Erich Auerbach’s analysis of the “dispossession” of illegitimate speakers in Tacitus’ Annales I (specifically of the seditious Percennius) and at Rancière’s response to and rejection of Auerbach’s arguments, this essay attempts to re-introduce the notion of truth into our understanding of Apuleius. That truth is, the essay argues, very close to Neoplatonic conceptions which are, of course, deeply embedded in the Apuleian text.

Ahuvia Kahane is Professor of Greek and Director of the Humanities and Arts Research Centre at Royal Holloway, Universityof London, and Associate Director of the Universityof LondonInstitute in Paris. He is currently completing a book about genre and the progress of historical time in antiquity (forthcoming, Duckworth) and a book on the relationship between monumentality and the illegible in the ancient world and in the classical tradition.