The End of Dialogue in Antiquity
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'Dialogue' was invented as a written form in democratic Athens and made a celebrated and popular literary and philosophical style by Plato. Yet it almost completely disappeared in the Christian empire of late antiquity. This book, a general and systematic study of the genre in antiquity, asks: who wrote dialogues and why? Why did dialogue no longer attract writers in the later period in the same way? Investigating dialogue goes to the heart of the central issues of power, authority, openness and playfulness in changing cultural contexts. This book analyses the relationship between literary form and cultural authority in a new and exciting way, and encourages closer reflection about the purpose of dialogue in its wider social, cultural and religious contexts in today's world.
for other media will become a straightforward business; once we have found the desiderata secured by dialogue form, we can infer that early Christians thought that other genres would achieve the same ends more effectively, or alternatively that such desiderata simply ceased to be desiderata in the Christian era. At the risk of caricature, let me give an intuitive example of the sort of account which this approach would yield. An author writes dialogues because of what she values in dialogue. Now
celebration of Socratic dialogue. Indeed, some scholars have read the first book of the Republic as an implicit attack on Socrates’ practice of elenchus and conception of virtue,4 but the book is no less a Socratic dialogue in form for that. Socratic influence cannot, however, explain the form of every Platonic dialogue, for Plato of course wrote dialogues in which Socrates is dethroned by a different protagonist (Sophist, Statesman) or altogether absent (Laws). This suggests that Plato had (or
Callirhoe decides to let her baby live. This is internal debate modelled as political institution – a witty, sophisticated and yet moving image of a young woman’s doubts and fears in which competing claims create a dialogue in her mind. Prudentius writes a long, narrative poem, which centres on an imagined battle between virtues and vices, where each virtue gets to deliver a speech, like a Homeric warrior on the battlefield, upholding Christian values, before vanquishing the enemy. On the rare
a recurring basis, rituals that validated their superiority and dominance over others in the polis. Not everyone had welcomed the introduction of philosophical conversation to the symposium in the classical period and preferred more sociable themes.12 Still, although the symposium doubtless remained first and foremost an institution of elite social reproduction, the literary prestige of the Platonic dialogues came to make an imprint on the symposium as a prime institution for the conduct of
(1992). 48 Text: Richard and Munitiz (2006). Thümmel (1992) 246–52, who considers the question at length; pace Dagron (1992) 63, col. 1. 188 kate cooper and matthew dal santo example, neither Anastasius nor the Pseudo-Athanasius was prepared to believe in the post-mortem activity of souls – even those of the saints.50 This is indicative rather of the space that existed for the creation of orthodoxy in the seventh century – a space that was very often colonised by dialogue. One may