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Parody and Paradox: Novelty and Canonicity in Lucian’s Verae Historiae


The Verae historiae is famous for its paradoxical claim both condemning Lucian’s literary predecessors for lying and also confessing to tell no truths itself.  This paper attempts to tease out this contradictory parallel between Lucian’s own text and the texts of those he parodies even further, using a text’s/tradition’s ability to transmit truth as the grounds of comparison.  Focusing on the Isle of the Blest and the whale episodes as moments of meta-literary importance, this paper finds Lucian’s text to parody the poetic tradition for its limited ability to transmit truth, to express its distance from that tradition, and yet nevertheless to highlight its own limitations in its communication of truth.  In so doing, Lucian reflects upon the relationship between novelty and adherence to tradition present in the rhetoric of the Second Sophistic.

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