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Post-classical performance culture and the Ancient Greek novel

Scholars have focused mainly on the sophisticated and specifically literary elements of the novel, revealing a staggering amount of intertextual traffic between the novels and canonical authors from Homer to Herodotus to Plato to Menander. While this (very successful) endeavour has raised the value of the novels’ ‘cultural capital’, it has generally neglected another important aspect of the genre—the so-called ‘low’, ‘sub-literary’ influences on the novels. No work of art exists in a cultural vacuum—as work on intertextuality has shown, novelists like Achilles Tatius and Chariton were familiar with not only Homer and Plato but with contemporary intellectual culture. It seems more than possible that their knowledge would have extended beyond the textual and into the performance culture of the time. The principle concern of my thesis is the question of why the novel is so performative and theatrical. I explore the performance culture influences on three ancient Greek novels—the Callirhoe of Chariton of Aphrodisias, Leucippe and Clitophon of Achilles Tatius, and the Aethiopica of Heliodorus. Each novel makes use of ‘theatre’ metaphorically but also practically and narratologically. The impact of performance culture extends beyond the influence of scripted literary dramatic texts and engages with the broader forms of performance—from mime and pantomime to public speaking. I demonstrate that ‘sub-literary’ performance serves as vibrant, important dialogic partner for the novels, a voice to be heard among the medley of other ‘languages’ (Bahktin’s heteroglossia), if we but listen. By no means do I reveal any uncontaminated evidence for mime or pantomime within the novels, but multiply filtered reflections of popular performance traditions. I suggest that the novel authors composed with performance models in mind or with a sustained, explicit dialectic with performative intertexts.
Date January 2014
CreatorsBentley, Gillian Granville
ContributorsLada-Richards, Ismene ; Trapp, Michael Burney
PublisherKing's College London (University of London)
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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