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Previous selves: body and narrative in Aelius Aristides' hieroi logoi and Apuleius' metamorphoses

Artemis L. Brod
May 2016

Aelius Aristides' Hieroi Logoi and Apuleius' Metamorphoses stage prolonged encounters with the failure or refusal of one's own body to function in its capacity as a vehicle for self-presentation -- an especially important function for orators of the second century CE. Both texts explore the degree to which language can remake the narrator's fragmented world. Whereas Aristides' Hieroi Logoi contribute to the orator's healing process, Apuleius' Metamorphoses uses the imagined animal body to demonstrate the elusive nature of constituting a whole self. Throughout his Hieroi Logoi, Aristides employs metaphors to solicit his audience's participation in reconfiguring his relationship to his body and his god. Apuleius' Metamorphoses, on the other hand, dramatizes a paradox: the protagonist, Lucius, achieves his goal of literary memorialization in the form of the book we hold, and yet the self that is on display is ultimately lost to the reader.