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Refiguring the Animal/Human Divide in Apuleius and Heliodorus

From the book Cultural Crossroads in the Ancient Novel

  • Ellen Finkelpearl


The novels of Apuleius and Heliodorus present a deliberately scrambled paradigm of animal-human distinctions - which accompanies in both texts a scrambling of identities and categories in other respects. Apuleius’ work confounds neat distinctions between rational humans and brute animals, running counter to accepted philosophical beliefs about the nature of Man and his/her distinction from ‘non-human animals’. In Heliodorus, the collapse of the animal/human divide is figured somewhat differently, through the striking prominence of two vegetarian priests, Kalasiris and Sisimithres, and through the reconceptualizing of ritual sacrifice. While Heliodorus more obviously disrupts and re-draws lines of ethnic identity and Apuleius complicates human-animal distinctions, Heliodorus entwines his narrative of racial discovery with a strong strain of re-consideration of animal-human hierarchies, and Apuleius intermixes his animal-human narrative with a confusion of ethnic identity.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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