(Mis)reading the gnat: truth and deception in the pseudo-Virgilian Culex

08 Sep 2017

Recent reassessments of the Culex consider it self-consciously pseudepigraphic, overtly protesting its Virgilian authenticity yet simultaneously flaunting its impersonatory poetics. This paper develops this approach, exploring how the poem showcases themes of truth, falsity and deception through metapoetic gestures, narrative structure, and self-positioning within various literary traditions. In particular, it argues that a reconsideration of the gnat’s katabasis-narrative as an embedded ‘poem within a poem’ provides insight into how the Culex models processes of reading (or rather misreading) within the fiction, and thus how it prompts its own readers to approach it.