Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose

Aesopic Conversations: Popular Tradition, Cultural Dialogue, and the Invention of Greek Prose

by Leslie Kurke
     
 

"Leslie Kurke is one of the sharpest and most original scholars of ancient Greek literary culture writing today. Informed, intellectually precise, and always engaged, her work has long been a pleasure and an education. Here she brings all of her considerable theoretical experience to the life and work of that least refined of ancient authors: Aesop. A hick, a

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Overview

"Leslie Kurke is one of the sharpest and most original scholars of ancient Greek literary culture writing today. Informed, intellectually precise, and always engaged, her work has long been a pleasure and an education. Here she brings all of her considerable theoretical experience to the life and work of that least refined of ancient authors: Aesop. A hick, a foreigner, a slave, Aesop speaks with no kind of authority and yet by all accounts he is wise. Kurke takes this central conundrum as the starting point for a wide-ranging exploration of what it means in ancient Greek culture to be highbrow or lowbrow, gold or dross. Along the way there are some surprising diversions, numerous clever insights, and quite a lot of sophisticated and not so sophisticated fun."—James Davidson, University of Warwick

Aesopic Conversations is a masterpiece. Breathtakingly original, the book illuminates the dynamics of the Aesopic tradition and the intellectual history of Greece. It succeeds in showing that the seemingly marginal figure of Aesop, a fable-telling alleged criminal and itinerant slave, had a central role in the invention of a fundamental medium for all of Western history—serious nonfictional prose."—Richard P. Martin, Stanford University

"This brilliant and exciting book revises major parts of ancient Greek cultural and literary history by revealing the important influence of the Aesopic tradition. Kurke tackles big issues and treats topics with thoroughness and nuance."—William Hansen, professor emeritus, Indiana University

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780691144580
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
Publication date:
10/25/2010
Series:
Martin Classical Lectures Series
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
504
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Leslie Kurke is professor of classics and comparative literature at the University of California, Berkeley. Her books include "Coins, Bodies, Games, and Gold" (Princeton).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi

Acknowledgments xiii

Abbreviations xvii

Introduction

I An Elusive Quarry: In Search of Ancient Greek Popular Culture 2

II Explaining the Joke: A Road Map for Classicists 16

III Synopsis of Method and Structure of Argument 46

Part I Competitive Wisdom and Popular Culture 51

Chapter 1 Aesop and the Contestation of Delphic Authority 53

I Ideological Tensions at Delphi 54

II The Aesopic Critique 59

III Neoptolemus and Aesop: Sacrifice, Hero Cult, and Competitive Scapegoating 75

Chapter 2 Sophia before/beyond Philosophy 95

I The Tradition of Sophia 95

II Sophists and (as) Sages 102

III Aristotle and the Transformation of Sophia 115

Chapter 3 Aesop as Sage: Political Counsel and Discursive Practice 125

I Aesop among the Sages 125

II Political Animals: Fable and the Scene of Advising 142

Chapter 4 Reading the Life: The Progress of a Sage and the Anthropology of Sophia 159

I An Aesopic Anthropology of Wisdom 160

II Aesop and Ahiqar 176

III Delphic Theoria and the Death of a Sage 185

IV The Bricoleur as Culture Hero, or the Art of Extorting Self-Incrimination 191

Chapter 5 The Aesopic Parody of High Wisdom 202

I Demystifying Sophia: Hesiod, Theognis, and the Seven Sages 204

II Aesopic Parody in the Visual Tradition? 224

Part II Aesop and the Invention of Greek Prose 239

Chapter 6 Aesop at the Invention of Philosophy 241

Prelude to Part II: The Problematic Sociopolitics of Mimetic Prose 241

I Mimesis and the Invention of Philosophy 244

II The Generic Affiliations of Sokratikoi logoi 251

Chapter 7 The Battle over Prose: Fable in Sophistic Education and Xenophon's Memorabilia 265

I Sophistic Fables 268

II Traditional Fable Narration in Xenophon's Memorabilia 288

Chapter 8 Sophistic Fable in Plato: Parody, Appropriation, and Transcendence 301

I Plato's Protagoras: Debunking Sophistic Fable 301

II Plato's Symposium: Ringing the Changes on Fable 308

Chapter 9 Aesop in Plato's Sokratikoi Logoi: Analogy, Elenchos, and Disavowal 325

I Sophia into Philosophy: Socrates between the Sages and Aesop 326

II The Aesopic Bricoleur and the "Old Socratic Tool-Box" 330

III Sympotic Wisdom, Comedy, and Aesopic Competition in Hippias Major 344

Chapter 10 Historie and Logopoiïa: Two Sides of Herodotean Prose 361

I History before Prose, Prose before History 362

II Aesop Ho Logopoios 370

III Plutarch Reading Herodotus: Aesop, Ruptures of Decorum, and the Non-Greek 382

Chapter 11 Herodotus and Aesop: Some Soundings 398

I Cyrus Tells a Fable 400

II Greece and (as) Fable, or Resignifying the Hierarchy of Genre 404

III Fable as History 412

IV The Aesopic Contract of the Histories: Herodotus Teaches His Readers 426

Bibliography 433

Index Locorum 463

General Index 478

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