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Defining Greek Narrative$
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Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680108

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680108.001.0001

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Pamela and Plato: Ancient and Modern Epistolary Narratives

Pamela and Plato: Ancient and Modern Epistolary Narratives

(p.298) 15 Pamela and Plato: Ancient and Modern Epistolary Narratives
Defining Greek Narrative

A. D. Morrison

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter discusses differences and similarities between ancient and modern epistolary narratives, comparing Richardson's Pamela, Goethe's Die Leiden des jungen Werthers, Laclos’ Les Liaisons dangereuses and Dorothy L. Sayers’ The Documents in the Case with the collections of letters attributed to Plato, Themistocles, Chion and Euripides. Striking differences emerge: the ancient examples are much shorter, their protagonists are famous historical individuals, they show a prominent apologetic element, and they not all chronologically arranged. The ancient examples contain only letters, and never present an editor, although ancient literature had ‘discovered texts'. Both ancient and modern examples are deeply interested in the psychology of characters and their motivation, in the power but also the dangers of communication in letters, and in epistolarity itself. Understanding the Greek epistolary collections requires looking beyond the modern epistolary novel, especially to ancient biography and apologetic literature such as the Socratic works of Plato and Xenophon.

Keywords:   Epistolary novel, Discovered texts, Biography, Apologetics, Plato, Themistocles, Chion, Euripides

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