Apuleius' Debt to Plato in the Metamorphoses

Author: O’Brien, Maeve
This book argues for a Platonist approach to the novel Metamorphoses, and shows that Apuleius forms his own theory of discourse in his philosophical work. This study of Apuleius’ late Roman novel is also a response to the scholarly debate about the unity of the text. The author shows that the Metamorphoses is a perfect illustration of the very Platonic notion of an inferior discourse that is captivating, persuasive, and suited to dealing with inconsistent or ephemeral subjects.


“ ... Dr. O’Brien has demonstrated that allusions to Plato can be discerned in other parts of the text; it can be argued that the Platonic notion of two kinds of discourse can be fruitfully applied to the Metamorphoses and can be used as a way of solving the long-standing problem of the apparent lack of connection between the Isis book and the rest of the work ... this is a serious contribution to Apuleian scholarship, original, well-argued, well-documented. I have no doubt that it is a work that all those working on the Metamorphoses will need to have on their shelves and to consult regularly.” – Professor Raymond Astbury, University College Dublin

“In her very lively and eminently readable book, Dr. O’Brien makes a solid case for her core insight, namely, that the Metamorphoses, in fact, is a seamless garment, woven from creative imagination and Platonist concerns, and focusing on the abiding issue of discourse. This is an important perspective, and it will significantly enhance future discussion of both Apuleius and of the Platonist tradition.” – Professor Colm Luibhéid, National University of Ireland

“ ... it is increasingly compelling as one reads on, and the unity of thought emerging in such disparate works as the Apology and the Metamorphoses – long suspected by many – is underpinned by careful research. Having spent many years in the study of what remains of Apuleius’ works, I experience great pleasure and satisfaction in the fact that such a book is now possible.” – B. L. Hijmans, University of Groningen

“ ... Dr. O’Brien has some interesting things to say about the importance of discourse in the novel (the ass is unable to communicate through words, and retransformed Lucius can praise Isis only insufficiently in words) ... overall, Dr. O’Brien’s subtle approach which combines Apuleian entertainment and Platonic philosophy, and a serious Platonic statement with the obvious problem that Apuleius’ heroes do not live up to Platonic expectations, provides some effective illumination of the novel.” – The Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 2005

Table of Contents

1. Apuleius: the concept of a Philosophical Discourse
2. Lucius the anti-Socrates in Thessaly
3. The Magician and The Day of Laughter
4. Cupid: Desire and Disorder in Cupid and Psyche