The Pseudo-Virgilian Culex: What Kind of Parody?
The Culex has often been interpreted as a parody of Virgil’s canonic works, as an ingenious forgery, or sometimes as a curious mixture of both. Since the presence of Virgilian themes is pervasive in the poem, the absence of verbal parody seems discomforting, especially since Boccaccio and a number modern scholars followed Lucan, Martial and Statius in attributing the poem to the young Virgil as a praelusio to his mature works. This paper attempts to show that most of the modern scholarship on the Culex is contaminated by aesthetic apology. In their zeal to defend Virgil against the authorship of the Gnat, however, modern readers of ten fail to appreciate the inherent qualities of the poem as a ludic literary experiment, an eclect ic blend of irreverenty parody and allegorical appropriation of the Iliad, and a micro-encyclopedia of genres.