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As Paul Grice noted in his foundational work on the pragmatics of language, communication (hence, narrative) involves a set Cooperative Principles (CP), which irony and other forms of humor must necessarily violate (1975: 53-56;1989: 53-54, 90, 120 et passim). If discrete Cooperative Principles govern truthful, i.e. bona fide (BF) modesof communication, is there an analogous set of principles that may be applied to ironic or humorous modes of discourse? And if so, what can these (Non?) Cooperative Principles reveal about the structure of narratives that rely heavily on irony and other non-truthful narrative postures, such as we find in satire? In this essay, I use a Gricean model to understand the relationship between satiric narrator and audience in Juvenal’s sixth, eighth, and ninth satires. What are the rules of the game? How do we, as readers, identify our roles in the satiric or non bona fide (NBF) communicative mode?

Scholarship on Roman satire has addressed issues of bonafide (BF) vs. non bona fide (NBF) communication primarily by focusing on the satiric narrator himself: the persona theorists (e.g. Kernan [1959], Anderson [1982], and Braund [1988, 1992, 1996]) first opened our eyes to the narrator’s masks; later scholars illuminated the art of his practices, whether by articulating more fully his various roles (Freudenburg 1993, 2001; Keane 2006), or by systemizing his methods of “lying” and “cheating” (Plaza 2006). All of these approaches, however, view the communicative process as unidirectional, proceeding from narrator to audience orreader. What a Gricean analysis offers us is the opportunity to analyze interdependencies between speaker and reader in this communicative process.

Consider, for example, the episode in Juvenal 6. 306-13, the women’s rendezvous at the altar of Chastity. We may easily observe how the narrator stages the episode as a mini-drama in two acts: the spectacle of the nighttime orgy, Act 1 (ll. 306-11), and the rise of the curtain in daylight, Act 2 (ll. 312-313). We may also find it easy to analyze the reader’s reaction by noting the many instances wordplay and thematic reversals. (Cf. Vincent’s [2010, 429-30] application of the General Theory of Verbal Humor [GTVH]; on the linguistic model itself, see Raskin 1985; Attardo 1994, 2001, 2003, 2008, etal.]). But what sort of rules ensure a humorous rather than a serious frame in which to appreciate the dramatic tropes, allusions, and wordplay? Applying a Gricean model to this example requires not only that we ask, “how does the reader react?” but also, “how does the text signal or set forth the terms of agreement on which the reader’s reactions are predicated?” Thus, the present essay attempts to fill the gap between narrative performance and reader response by observing how cooperative violations at the phonemic, morphemic, syntactical levels (i.e. the phenomena that create jokes) are mirrored by violations of genre and narrative structure at the macro-level. The interplay among these elements suggests a discrete principles of (Non-)Cooperation, or what I will call “TransgressivePrinciples” (“TPs”) analogous to Gricean CPs.

In asmuch as previous literature has explicated acts of transgression insatire (e.g. Gold 1994, Walters 1998, Plaza 2006: 133-155), a coherent set of transgressive principles connecting the syntax and style with the substance or themes of transgression has yet to be articulated, and this essay is a small step in that direction. In addition, if the identification of TPs can help us to establish the metatextual parameters within which the satiric mode operates, it may also help us reassess the satiric poem not merely as a kind of anti-narrative that subverts traditional “rules” (cf. Carroll’s [2001] theory of narrative), nor merely as a hybrid narrative, featuring mixtures of various generic tropes. Instead, TPs promise to take us further in understanding what satire actually is and how we may interpret satiric vignettes in a more nuanced fashion.