Suzanne Sharland, Horace in Dialogue: Bakhtinian Readings in the Satires.
In this reworking of Suzanne Sharland's doctoral thesis she took into consideration, inter alia, the approaches of one of the most impenetrable literary critics of the 20th century (Bakhtin) to arrive at a better understanding of the work of an ancient author. Her objective was to clarify the impact of layered dialogue in Horace's Satires. To my reading of the whole she did this with remarkable success. The book is noteworthy for its clarity of style and for presenting the complex arguments it makes in a persuasive and accessible manner.
In the Introduction ('Voices in the Moralising Satires of Horace: "Diatribe" as Dialogue') Sharland makes clear what Bakhtin claims, namely that '[t]he contexts of dialogue are without limit' (p. 1). She first gives a broad overview of the function of diatribe in ancient sources, before she summarises the multifaceted way in which Horace makes use of diatribe in the Satires. The part on diatribe in modern theory is especially illuminating. This introductory section forms the basis for the application of a theory of dialogue to Horace's Satires in the remainder of the work.
The rest of the book is divided into two parts, entitled 'Multiple Voices' and 'Other Voices'. Part One ('Multiple Voices') discusses the 'dialogic discourse and addressivity' in the moralising satires of Horace Sermones Book 1. It is mainly concerned with the multiple voices reflected in the first triad of the book, but it also focuses on the ongoing relationship between the speaker and the recipient.
In Chapter 1 ('Satires 1.1: The Dialogue of Monologue', pp. 55-98) Sharland describes the way in which the plurality of different voices is portrayed in the monologues in Satires 1.1. She points out that dialogic relationships enable Horace to present speakers in Books 1 and 2 of the Satires in a complex and ever-changing manner. The chapter further gives an overview of these speakers. It discusses Horace's 'second self' and the reversals of the authorial voice made possible by this perspective when Horace portrays a 'second self' active in a 'complex poetic world', with fascinating results for speaker and addressees alike. A sound exposition of the role played by the audience in satire in general follows, as well as more specifically, Bakhtin's position on speakers and audiences. The chapter concludes with a discussion of a possible motive for, or 'hidden agenda' behind, Satires 1.1.
Chapter 2 ('Satires 1.2: Addressing Adultery, Speaking Sexuality', pp. 99-134) examines Horace on sex as portrayed in this satire by focusing on aspects of multiplicity already discussed in the previous chapter. What interests Sharland is again the dialogicality of the satire; the range of imaginary adversaries and fictive audiences. The entire chapter illustrates different aspects of Horace's splitting of the subject in an 'ongoing selfsatiric portrayal of his satirist speaker' (p. 129) with a much more complex moralising result than merely making fun of the difficulties suffered by an adulterer.
'The Dialogue of Friendship: Satires. 1.3', as scrutinised in Chapter 3 (pp. 135-62), points to the importance of forgiveness in such relationships, implying that the multiplicity at work elsewhere in Horatian perspectives should also apply to the assessment of a friend's faults. Again, when the addressee as well as the context of the satire is considered, the speaker's motives seem rather questionable. The altruistic forbearance regarding friends in general proposed in this satire becomes more complex or even tainted when a patron-friend such as Maecenas is specifically involved.
In 'Speakers, Audiences, and Other Role Reversals in the Moralising Satires of Horace Sermones Book Two', the introductory chapter to Part Two ('Other Voices') of the volume (pp. 163-64), Sharland points out yet another reversal; in this case the reversal of the trends indicated in Book 1. The poet moves into the position of recipient of the satiric address. He becomes addressee, interlocutor, audience and even target of the moralising discourse. The conversations between the Horace speaker and others are examined in an environment where Bakhtin's theories of heteroglossia and polyphony are taken into account. Again, the Bakhtinian notion of addressivity forms a central point of departure for these analyses.
Chapter 4 ('The Moralising Satires of Horace's Second Book: An Echo and a Retort', pp. 165-96) concentrates on the issues of sources and how these sources are represented. To a certain extent a moralising lecture depends for its authenticity on its source and if that supposed source is shown to be open to interpretation, the lecture too is open to this possibility. Sharland's compelling analysis of Sat. 2.2 is crucial for the general argument of the book. She therefore also deals with further aspects of source representation, especially aspects such as 'false' or pretended authoritative sources in the next chapter (Chapter 5, 'Sources, Speakers and Addressees: Horace's Experiment in 'Derived' Discourse in Satires 2.2').
Throughout the book, an aspect which fascinates Sharland is ambiguity of discourse. In Chapter 6 ('Speaking with Authority: "Authoritative Discourse" versus "Internally Persuasive Discourse" in Satires 2.3', pp. 225-60) she deals with the consequences for discourse when prior authoritative discourse is understood and applied in a naive or simplistic manner. Again, she illustrates persuasively just how intriguing the implications for satire are.
Chapter 7 ('A World Turned Upside Down: Saturnalia as Proto-Carnival in Satires 2.7', pp. 261-316) suggests a great inter-book joke is at work in the satires as a whole. For this aspect of the reading of the satires to persuade, the reversals (as pointed out in Sharland's preceding analyses) in the previous satires have to be recognised and accepted as well as the ongoing multiplicity of dialogue reflected in both books of Satires (which in turn have to be understood as a unit). Sharland points out that 'other voices' form the basis for what Bakhtin much later identified as polyphony. On the other hand, the 'Horace' of the Satires is at the same time a 'single but also created entity' (p. 323). It is Horace as author who allows and exploits different versions of the truth in an ongoing dialogic multiplicity, bringing to a flourishing close the self-satiric tendency apparent from the beginning of Satires Book One.
The conclusion of the book (pp. 317-26) gives a useful overview of each chapter, underlining the contribution made by a Bakhtinian approach to the analyses and the broadened understanding of the satires under discussion resulting from this approach.
This is not a book for casual perusing and does not lend itself to a simplified summary of its contents or argument. It is densely written and needs concentrated attention. However, not only Horace's satires benefit from this concentrated focus, but also Bakhtin's theories become more accessible when applied to a specific text in this manner. The greatest contribution of the book is that it functions as an example of its contribution. In other words, it illustrates its thesis on every page. The author applied the methods and insights of a difficult and often impenetrable literary critic (Bakhtin) to the work of an ancient poet. In the way in which she did this, she illuminated not only the ancient author, but also the literary critic. Her work will therefore not only be of value to scholars who study Horace, but also to literary critics in any language.
Sjarlene Thom (University of Stellenbosch)