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Xenophon of Ephesus and Orality in the Roman Empire.

Ancient Narrative 2003, Annual, 3

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Of the five authors of the so-called novels of "love and adventure" perhaps the least studied is Xenophon of Ephesus. This is so because, ever since the Suda attributed ten books to the Ephesiaca while the text of the novel contains just five, Xenophon has traditionally been regarded as having the least literary merit. (1) And despite the valuable counterarguments of T. Hagg, who held that Xenophon's reputation as an epitomizer is based mainly on his particular narrative technique and that the text may in any case include a number of lacunae, the epitome theory has held sway for years. (2) Shortly after Hagg's study, I myself made a study of Xenophon's characteristic "KAI style" together with the other particles in the surviving books, and concluded that the style is constant in all five of them and that the words are undoubtedly those of the author himself. (3) In more recent studies the tendency has been to accept the text's originality, (4) though there are still those who believe in the epitome theory. (5) The most likely date of composition of the work would seem to have been the reign of Hadrian or Antoninus Pius. There are no surviving fragments of the novel: the so-called Antheia fragment would appear not to be a part of this particular novel but of some other work inspired perhaps by Xenophon. (6) In my doctoral dissertation defended in 1979, though not published until 1988, I compared the structural model discovered by Propp in the Russian fairy-tale with that of the five love novels, (7) and noted that the first two novels by Chariton and Xenophon were closest to the fairy-tale model, while the quest of a lover for the other may be likened to The Man on a Quest for his Lost Wife, which is a central part of the "romantic fairy tale". (8) The novel which is closest to the folk-tale structure is plainly that of Xenophon, and this is what needs to be borne in mind in any study of the novel, though this does not necessarily imply, as O'Sullivan has recently asserted, that it is the first of its kind. (9) The oral storytelling features of the novel are so pronounced that, at times, the parallels with the folk-tale seem obvious: its continual repetitions at all sorts at different levels, the lack of motivation in the plot, the contradictions, the information gaps, the break-neck pace of the different episodes, the psychological superficiality of its characters (divided into good and bad) who appear in droves and are all given names--however fleeting their appearance--in a kind of horror vacui which aims at both realism and lifelikeness, all help to distinguish the novel and to give Xenophon the appeal of the "conteur populaire", as Dalmeyda remarked in his edition of 1926. (10)

Xenophon of Ephesus and Orality in the Roman Empire.
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  • Category: Language Arts & Disciplines
  • Published: 01 January 2003
  • Publisher: Barkhuis Publishing
  • Print Length: 32 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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