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

Paperback (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $26.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 32%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (7) from $26.98   
  • New (6) from $26.98   
  • Used (1) from $31.68   

Overview

Examining the figure of Aesop and the traditions surrounding him, Aesopic Conversations offers a portrait of what Greek popular culture might have looked like in the ancient world. What has survived from the literary record of antiquity is almost entirely the product of an elite of birth, wealth, and education, limiting our access to a fuller range of voices from the ancient past. This book, however, explores the anonymous Life of Aesop and offers a different set of perspectives. Leslie Kurke argues that the traditions surrounding this strange text, when read with and against the works of Greek high culture, allow us to reconstruct an ongoing conversation of "great" and "little" traditions spanning centuries.

Evidence going back to the fifth century BCE-suggests that Aesop participated in the practices of nonphilosophical wisdom (sophia) while challenging it from below, and Kurke traces Aesop's double relation to this wisdom tradition. She also looks at the hidden influence of Aesop in early Greek mimetic or narrative prose writings, focusing particularly on the Socratic dialogues of Plato and the Histories of Herodotus. Challenging conventional accounts of the invention of Greek prose and recognizing the problematic sociopolitics of humble prose fable, Kurke provides a new approach to the beginnings of prose narrative and what would ultimately become the novel.

Delving into Aesop, his adventures, and his crafting of fables, Aesopic Conversations shows how this low, noncanonical figure was-unexpectedly-central to the construction of ancient Greek literature.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Winner of the 2012 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit, American Philological Association

Shortlisted for the 2012 Runciman Award, Anglo-Hellenic League

"Kurke's learned and humane book aims to excavate the vibrant popular tradition assumed by Aesop's fables but now largely buried, and restore it to its place in cultural history. . . . Aesopic Conversations is a brilliant and original book, which will transform the way we read early Greek literature."—Tim Whitmarsh, London Review of Books

"There are large ideas in this book. Critical faculties will be honed by reading it."—Vivienne Gray, Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews

"With her keen eye for symbolic expressions of ideological conflict, Kurke has thrust Aesop into the center of major political, philosophical and literary developments of the fifth and fourth centuries. Precisely because of its ambitions, many of the claims this book makes want weighing. But let it be said that if Kurke sometimes pushes the evidence, she never forces it, and she always gives space to alternative views in substantial footnotes."—Andrew Ford, International Journal of the Classical Tradition

"[Kurke] consistently succeeds in keeping the main lines of her argument clearly in view. Cumulatively her discussion is both rich and persuasive and often quite witty. The Aesop who emerges is altogether a much more complex, influential, and interesting figure than the homespun rustic narrator of 'Aesop's fables.'"—Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, New England Classical Journal

"[A] thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, here and throughout the book: Kurke makes us look anew at familiar texts, and that is what literary criticism is for."—John Taylor, Anglo-Hellenic Review

"Kurke's . . . approach to the text(s) of the Life of Aesop [is] groundbreaking and sophisticated. While there have been a number of valuable studies of the Life of Aesop in recent decades, few have attempted to grapple in earnest with the specific challenges posed by its anonymity, textual multiplicity, and popular character."—Jeremy B. Lefkowitz, Phoenix

"Kurke's is a very distinctive voice. Her scholarship is always trenchant, thoughtful, and articulate. Her argument is clear, even when intricate and extended, and it has no Aesopic aggressions or sleights of hand. . . . There is much to admire and enjoy here."—Simon Goldhill, Classical World

London Review of Books
Kurke's learned and humane book aims to excavate the vibrant popular tradition assumed by Aesop's fables but now largely buried, and restore it to its place in cultural history. . . . Aesopic Conversations is a brilliant and original book, which will transform the way we read early Greek literature.
— Tim Whitmarsh
Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews
There are large ideas in this book. Critical faculties will be honed by reading it.
— Vivienne Gray
International Journal of the Classical Tradition
With her keen eye for symbolic expressions of ideological conflict, Kurke has thrust Aesop into the center of major political, philosophical and literary developments of the fifth and fourth centuries. Precisely because of its ambitions, many of the claims this book makes want weighing. But let it be said that if Kurke sometimes pushes the evidence, she never forces it, and she always gives space to alternative views in substantial footnotes.
— Andrew Ford
New England Classical Journal
[Kurke] consistently succeeds in keeping the main lines of her argument clearly in view. Cumulatively her discussion is both rich and persuasive and often quite witty. The Aesop who emerges is altogether a much more complex, influential, and interesting figure than the homespun rustic narrator of 'Aesop's fables.'
— Andrew Szegedy-Maszak
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

There are large ideas in this book. Critical faculties will be honed by reading it.
— Vivienne Gray
Anglo-Hellenic Review
[A] thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, here and throughout the book: Kurke makes us look anew at familiar texts, and that is what literary criticism is for.
— John Taylor
London Review of Books - Tim Whitmarsh
Kurke's learned and humane book aims to excavate the vibrant popular tradition assumed by Aesop's fables but now largely buried, and restore it to its place in cultural history. . . . Aesopic Conversations is a brilliant and original book, which will transform the way we read early Greek literature.
Bryn Mawr Classical Reviews - Vivienne Gray
There are large ideas in this book. Critical faculties will be honed by reading it.
International Journal of the Classical Tradition - Andrew Ford
With her keen eye for symbolic expressions of ideological conflict, Kurke has thrust Aesop into the center of major political, philosophical and literary developments of the fifth and fourth centuries. Precisely because of its ambitions, many of the claims this book makes want weighing. But let it be said that if Kurke sometimes pushes the evidence, she never forces it, and she always gives space to alternative views in substantial footnotes.
New England Classical Journal - Andrew Szegedy-Maszak
[Kurke] consistently succeeds in keeping the main lines of her argument clearly in view. Cumulatively her discussion is both rich and persuasive and often quite witty. The Aesop who emerges is altogether a much more complex, influential, and interesting figure than the homespun rustic narrator of 'Aesop's fables.'
Anglo-Hellenic Review - John Taylor
[A] thoughtful and thought-provoking discussion, here and throughout the book: Kurke makes us look anew at familiar texts, and that is what literary criticism is for.
Phoenix - Jeremy B. Lefkowitz
Kurke's . . . approach to the text(s) of the Life of Aesop [is] groundbreaking and sophisticated. While there have been a number of valuable studies of the Life of Aesop in recent decades, few have attempted to grapple in earnest with the specific challenges posed by its anonymity, textual multiplicity, and popular character.
Classical World - Simon Goldhill
Kurke's is a very distinctive voice. Her scholarship is always trenchant, thoughtful, and articulate. Her argument is clear, even when intricate and extended, and it has no Aesopic aggressions or sleights of hand. . . . There is much to admire and enjoy here.
Read More Show Less

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
  • Sales rank: 1,137,368
  • 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).

Read More Show Less

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

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)