In his sixteen verse Satires, Juvenal explores the emotional provocations and pleasures associated with social criticism and mockery. He makes use of traditional generic elements such as the first-person speaker, moral diatribe, narrative, and literary allusion to create this new satiric preoccupation and theme. Juvenal defines the satirist figure as an emotional agent who dramatizes his own response to human vices and faults, and he in turn aims to engage other people's feelings. Over the course of his career, he adopts a series of rhetorical personae that represent a spectrum of satiric emotions, encouraging his audience to ponder satire's proper emotional mode and function. Juvenal first offers his signature indignatio with its associated pleasures and discomforts, then tries on subtler personae that suggest dry detachment, callous amusement, anxiety, and other affective states.
As Keane shows, the satiric emotions are not only found in the author's rhetorical performances, but they are also a major part of the human farrago that the Satires purport to treat. Juvenal's poems explore the dynamic operation of emotions in society, drawing on diverse ancient literary, rhetorical, and philosophical sources. Each poem uniquely engages with different texts and ideas to reveal the unsettling powers of its emotional mode. Keane also analyzes the "emotional plot" of each book of Satires and the structural logic of the entire series with its wide range of subjects and settings. From his famous angry tirades to his more puzzling later meditations, Juvenal demonstrates an enduring interest in the relationship between feelings and moral judgment.