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Apuleius: Cupid and Psyche

3. Literary Echoes

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About this Lecture


In this module, we think about the echoes of different literary genres within the Cupid and Psyche episode, focusing in particular on: (i) Cupid and Psyche as a ‘story-within-a-story’, an important feature of ancient epic; (ii) the opening of the episode (“In a certain city there was a king and queen…”), which is highly reminiscent of the openings of Greek novels such as those of Xenophon of Ephesus (“There was a man in Ephesus, who…”) and Apollonius of Tyre (“In Antioch there was a king, who…”); (iii) the fairy-tale elements of the story, e.g. a beautiful girl with two ugly sisters (cf. Cinderella), a beautiful girl in love with a monster (cf. Beauty and the Beast); (iv) the echoes of tragedy in the divine anger of Venus/Aphrodite (cf. Euripides’ Hippolytus), dying unmarried/being married to death (cf. Sophocles’ Antigone), and the idea of being “sick in body, wounded in love” (cf. Ennius); (v) the extent to which the Cupid and Psyche episode might be seen as a philosophical treatise, thinking in particular about Plato’s discussion of the soul (Greek: psyche) in his Phaedrus; and (vi) the reception of the Cupid and Psyche myth in more recent literature – John Keats, Sylvia Plath, and C. S. Lewis.


In this course, Dr Regine May (University of Leeds) explores the story of Cupid and Psyche in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. In the first module, we think about the literary and historical context of Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, before turning in the second module to consider the ancient novel as a genre. In the third module, we explore some of the literary echoes contained within the story of Cupid and Psyche – epic, tragedy, fairy-tale, love poetry, etc. – before moving on in the fourth module to analyse some of the key characters in the story, as well as thinking about some of the key themes. Finally, in the fifth module, we explore Apuleius’ language and style in more detail with a close reading and detailed analysis of a single chapter within the Cupid and Psyche story: 5.13.

Further Reading:

Primary Reading:
– S. R. Thomson, Apuleius. Metamorphoses V. A Selection. (2018)
– R. May, Apuleius. The Story of Cupid and Psyche. Translation, Introduction and Notes (2019)
– P. G. Walsh, Apuleius. The Golden Ass (2008)
– P. G. Walsh, Petronius. Satyricon (2009)

– E. J. Kenney, Apuleius. Cupid and Psyche (1990)

Secondary Reading:
– S. J. Harrison, Apuleius. A Latin Sophist (2000)
– S. J. Harrison, Characterisation in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. Nine Studies (2015)


Dr Regine May is Associate Professor in Latin Language and Literature at the University of Leeds, with a special interest in ancient drama and the Latin novel. Her most recent publications include a book on Apuleius' use of Roman comedy, tragedy and mime, Apuleius and Drama: The Ass on Stage (2006), and a commentary on Apuleius Metamorphoses Book 1: With an Introduction, Translation and Notes(2013).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

May, R. (2019, December 21). Apuleius: Cupid and Psyche - Literary Echoes [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

May, R. "Apuleius: Cupid and Psyche – Literary Echoes." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 21 Dec 2019,