During the second century C.E., the North African rhetorician and philosopher Apuleius composed the Metamorphoses (otherwise known as The Golden Ass), the only Latin ‘novel’ to be preserved virtually intact from the ancient Mediterranean. Centered around a man who is transformed through magic into a donkey and eventually re-transformed back into human form by the Egyptian goddess Isis, the Metamorphoses has puzzled readers and scholars with its peculiar combination of bawdy humor and religious devotion. In more recent years Apuleius’ work has often, and justifiably, been praised by scholars for its narrative complexity and verbal pyrotechnics.

This presentation by Deborah Cromley, Ph.D., explores how Apuleius’ Metamorphoses combines the silly and the sacred to stage a harrowing journey into the depths of what it means to be human, focusing on the crucial yet problematic role of articulate speech in the formation of human identity. Although the human voice is an essential bridge between the body and the incorporeal aspects of a human, between the interior self and the exterior social and religious realms, in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, this bridge breaks, exposing the vulnerability of human identity.

Dr. Cromley, assistant professor of Latin and Classics, was named Rev. Msgr. A. Robert Casey Teacher of the Year Award in 2015. A former Fulbright Fellow, she received her B.A. from Smith College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. Her research interests include the ancient novel, the relationship between language and identity, and gendered self-fashioning.