Academic journal article Ancient Narrative

A Pepaideumenoi's Novel. Sophistry in Longus' Daphnis and Chloe

Academic journal article Ancient Narrative

A Pepaideumenoi's Novel. Sophistry in Longus' Daphnis and Chloe

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

It has been widely recognized that the 'genre' (1) of the ancient Greek romance displays some tendencies that are also characteristic of the broader cultural climate of Imperial Greek literature, which has conventionally been labelled the 'Second Sophistic'. (2) For these influences of the contemporary context, one can point to the similar interaction with past figures and literary works, the quest for a distinctive Greek identity, and the overall influence of rhetoric and the contemporary literary taste on the novels' compositions. (3) In adding to these studies, this paper will explore the communication process which takes place between the learned composer of Daphnis and Chloe and its learned reader. In support of the traditional viewpoint that Longus should firmly be situated in the context of the Second Sophistic, it will be argued that part of the versatile amusement in Longus' story has its parallel in the contemporary rhetorical practice of the so-called sophists, who travelled all around the Roman Empire and gobsmacked various audiences with their amazing rhetorical talent. After all, such a correspondence can to a certain extent be expected, for it is quite logical that an audience that was made aware of certain narratological and rhetorical principles through attendance at public declamations would have appreciated such procedures in literary works as well. Moreover, education in the Roman Empire, with its focus on speaking and reading, imparted both rhetorical skill and literary taste (most probably with some overlap between the two), (4) and literary theory and criticism of this period such as Ps.-Longinus' On the sublime tended to offer a rhetorical approach to all sorts of literature. (5)

In other words, I aim to bring together and contextualize some observations on Longus' text in the light of its socio-cultural backdrop. As happens quite often with texts that are amply read and studied, many good analyses of Longus' novel have been offered, the results of which are incorporated alongside my personal observations and further discussed and framed in this paper. The ultimate objective is to demonstrate how the story-telling in Daphnis and Chloe is thoroughly in accordance to Second Sophistic poetics. (6) The idea that Longus is an exceptional novel writer with a lot of sophisticated refinery is self-evidently not new--one thinks for example of the title Longus 'Sophista' already attributed by Jungermann in his 1605 edition--, but this paper tried to move beyond this commonsensical approach by defining what precisely this 'sophistic' character of the novel actually meant for its contemporary reader. As will appear from the subsequent discussion, this reconstruction of the 'sophistic' character is supported by recent publications that have sharpened the understanding of the literary taste of the Second Sophistic audience.

In the first part of the paper, I will briefly discuss the rhetorical culture of Imperial Greece, in which both the rhetorical activity of the Second Sophistic and Longus' novel can be situated. Subsequently, I will address two excerpts of the Daphnis and Chloe story. The first excerpt is the prologue of the novel, which can almost literally be comprehended as the framework for the entire story. The second excerpt is a scene in book II in which there appears to be a clear interplay between genre conventions, reader-response and perversion of expectations. Both these excerpts establish what I believe to be the sophistic character of Longus' novel, which probably made it a well appreciated piece of divertimento for the model reader, the pepaideumenos. After all, the ancient novels were not written for the simple amusement of the common people, as it was believed earlier, but they addressed the cultural, economical and intellectual upper class (as so often happens, this is by and large the same group of people). (7)

As to the methodology, the main focus will be on Longus' management of time and especially space in Daphnis and Chloe! …

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