Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel: Returning Romance (Greek Culture in the Roman World)

Narrative and Identity in the Ancient Greek Novel: Returning Romance (Greek Culture in the Roman World)

Tim Whitmarsh

Language: English

Pages: 313


Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The Greek romance was for the Roman period what epic was for the Archaic period or drama for the Classical: the central literary vehicle for articulating ideas about the relationship between self and community. This book offers a reading of the romance both as a distinctive narrative form (using a range of narrative theories) and as a paradigmatic expression of identity (social, sexual and cultural). At the same time it emphasises the elasticity of romance narrative and its ability to accommodate both conservative and transformative models of identity. This elasticity manifests itself partly in the variation in practice between different romancers, some of whom are traditionally Hellenocentric while others are more challenging. Ultimately, however, it is argued that it reflects a tension in all romance narrative, which characteristically balances centrifugal against centripetal dynamics. This book will interest classicists, historians of the novel and students of narrative theory.












(and arguably well beyond that),8 the second century ce saw a step change, in that emperors were now explicitly self-fashioning as Greek. Nero and Domitian, like Antony before them, had adopted some markers of Hellenic stylisation, but it was Hadrian (117–38) in particular who cultivated an image of himself in unmistakeably Greek terms: accompanying the famous beard,9 boyfriend and poetry, concrete symbols of his affiliation, were a series of practical policies supporting Greece: the patronising

Egyptian (3.14.2–4). At one point, Theagenes is credited with an ingenious argument for proving that Achilles was in fact a compatriot of his, an Aenianian, that is to say, from his own hometown (2.34.2–8). This, Theagenes claims, demonstrates that his race is ‘truly Greek’.102 By Heliodorus’ day, Aenis had grown into a small but significant Thessalian koinon; its history, however, was shadowy, and any traces in the mythical record exiguous.103 Theagenes’ sophistic argumentation recalls the

father, but the artificial painting. Heliodorus’ Ethiopia is a place of deep truths; but one of those truths is that mimetic artefacts possess an unopposable reproductive force, which can exceed mere nature. Overall, the text associates cultural, mimetic identities with Greek more than any other. There is an implicit suggestion that the narrative is philosophically realist, peeling away the false layers of Charicleia’s identity until we reach her true, natural, Ethiopian self. We can read

excellent account of philosophical and theological allegories in late antiquity (see 149–52 on Heliodorus). Dawson (1992) considers allegory as a means of controlling and mediating cultural authority. On allegory and literary criticism, see Ford (2002) 67–79 for the classical period, and more generally Struck (2004). The diverse essays in Boys-Stones (2003) are also important. Most (2007) reflects on Heliodorus and/as allegory. Nimis (1998) 110; see further Whitmarsh (2009b) 44–7 and above, pp.

in the romances also invoke ideas of the restitution of identity, albeit in different ways: the self is defined principally in relation to community rather than constituted solely within the psyche, since the desired wholeness is the integrated society rather than the child’s bond with her or his mother. (This distinction between psychoanalytic and romantic is in line with the difference that Christopher Gill traces between post-Cartesian ‘subjective–individualist’ and older

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