Menippean Satire

(redirected from Varronian satire)
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Menippean Satire


a genre of classical literature. Classical tradition associates the origins of Menippean satire with the work of the cynic philosopher Menippus of Gadara (third century B.C.). Only the titles of his works have been preserved. However, the evidence of his influence in Lucian’s and Varro’s works, about 600 fragments of which have been preserved, has enabled scholars to describe Menippean satire as a combination of verse and prose, philosophy and satire. Motifs of Menippean satire are also found in the works of Seneca the Younger and Petronius.

In Europe, Menippean satire gave rise to a genre characterized by satirical self-expose and self-mockery and exemplified by La Satire Menippee, which was written during the religious wars in 16th-century France. A number of F. M. Dostoevsky’s works, including Bobok, are also representative of this genre.


Pomialovskii, I.Mark Terentsii Varron ReatinskiiiMenippovasatura. St Petersburg, 1869. [Texts, translations, research.]
Istoriia grecheskoi literatury, vol. 3. Moscow, 1960.
Bakhtin, M. Problemy poetiki Dostoevskogo, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Helm, R. Lucian und Menipp. Leipzig, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
(16) The verse interludes and inlaid tales are common features of Menippean, also known as Varronian satire. Frye goes on to mention Burton, Boccacio, Rabelais, Joyce, Montaigne, and several other figures who are later key anatomists.
Manley lives only in that line of Pope which seems to promise it immortality." (2) Today, however, a growing number of critics are discussing The New Atalantis, often as part of analyses of women's writing or the "rise of the novel." A comment relevant to both of these projects which has been largely overlooked is Manley's own description of the book in her dedication to the second volume: "The New Atalantis seems, my Lord, to be written like Varonian satires, on different subjects, tales, stories and characters of invention." (3) To label a work a Varronian satire seems somewhat exotic, even pedantic, today.
Manley herself, however, identifies a different type of formal tradition for the work when she describes The New Atalantis as a Varronian satire.
Manley's mention of Varronian satire jars with feminist depictions of her work as part of a "female form"; one reading, in order to propose a "distinctly feminocentric model" of influence, dismisses "the invocation of Varro" as "nothing more than an audacious trope." (7) In seeking to restore Manley as an object of serious study, critics have at times gone too far in portraying her as a feminist author writing a feminist work for a female audience; occasionally, feminist elements of the texts (which are undoubtedly present) are inaccurately or misleadingly privileged.
In order to understand what Manley hoped to achieve by aligning her work with Varronian satire, we must first assess the reputation of Varro and his works at Manley's time.
Ultimately, it is this body of criticism which would do more to determine the idea of "Varronian satire." While relatively few were likely to have read the fragments, many were familiar with, for example, Quintilian's description of Varro as "vir Romanorum eruditissimus," his mention of Varro as one who had expounded upon his philosophy in verse, and his praise of the learning conveyed by his work: "Quam multa, paene omnia, tradidit Varro!' (How wide, almost universal, was the knowledge that Varro communicated to the world!).
The tradition of Varronian satire is remarkable in that its primary textual source was lost: the Varro of the eighteenth century was almost entirely a critical construction.
For Casaubon, Varronian satire was a Roman development, distinct from the work of Menippus.
Dacier repeated many of Casaubon's statements on Varronian satire, but also clarified and condensed certain points:
Though Dacier's writings were familiar, Manley and other early eighteenth-century writers were most likely to have encountered descriptions of Varronian satire in Dryden.
Thus far the elements of Varronian satire emphasized by Dryden and other critics include variety, elegance, wittiness, eloquence, and learnedness, as well as the avoidance of "ridiculous" or "impudent" material.
Delineating two major types, the "Varronian Satire" and a Petronian variant, she construes the form quite strictly, defining these satires as "fictional .