Professor Nina Braginskaya on the Life of Aesop and the origins of the novel
Fabulae Aesopi by Heinrich Steinhöwel, circa 1477/78
At the next meeting of the Classics seminar Professor Nina Braginskaya (The Russian State University for the Humanities; National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow) will deliver a lecture entitled “The Life of Aesop: the one and only Menippean satire?”
The lecture will focus on the history of the (ab)use of the term Menippean satire in Classical scholarship, up until its appearance in Mikhail Bakhtin’s influential analysis of the modern novel in Problems of Dostoyevsky’s Poetics (1963). While there are good reasons to question the validity of an umbrella term that would include works as diverse as Petronius’s Satyricon, Martianus Capella’s De Nuptiis Philologiae at Mercurii and Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae, it is possible to point to one text that conforms to Bakhtin’s definition of the Menippean satire, althought, ironically, it remained unknown to him: the anonymous Life of Aesop. In her lecture, Professor Braginskaya will clarify what genre characteristics Mikhail Bakhtin was after in his theory of the Menippea.
Since the Life of Aesop is a work that is little known but very noteworthy, seminar participants are invited to read the Life of Aesop in English transition ahead of the seminar. A pdf with an English translation (as well as a pdf of an excerpt from Bakhtin’s discussion of the Menippea) will be circulated through the Classics seminar mailing list; to receive the readings you can also contact the seminar organizer at firstname.lastname@example.org.