Intercepted Letters: Epistolary and Narrative in Greek and Roman Literature

Overview

Intercepted Letters examines the phenomenon of epistolarity within a range of classical Greek and Roman texts, with a focus on letters as symbols for larger, culturally constructed processes of reading, writing, and interpretation. In addition, it analyzes how the epistolary form occasionally problematizes—for lack of a better word—the introduction of the technology of writing into cultures already heavily implicated in the authority of the spoken, or sung, word. The methods of intertextuality and reader-response...

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Overview

Intercepted Letters examines the phenomenon of epistolarity within a range of classical Greek and Roman texts, with a focus on letters as symbols for larger, culturally constructed processes of reading, writing, and interpretation. In addition, it analyzes how the epistolary form occasionally problematizes—for lack of a better word—the introduction of the technology of writing into cultures already heavily implicated in the authority of the spoken, or sung, word. The methods of intertextuality and reader-response theory that have so revolutionized other aspects of classical scholarship have not, in the main, been applied to epistolarity studies; studies of epistolarity have instead tended to focus on individual collections: Cicero's letters, Pliny's letters, Plato's letters. Epistolarity that occurs in larger narrative contexts (such as tragedy, oratory, and historiography) remains woefully under-theorized; moreover, a consistent thread in the introduction of epistolarity into non-epistolary contexts is that of a destabilizing or dislocating narrative device. Intercepted Letters argues that epistolarity has certain formal features that can be found evenoutside of epistolary collections, including the problematics of communication, an emphasis on authorial absence, a hypersensitivity to interpretation, and an implicit focus on power (who controls the voice?). These aspects are as integral to studies of epistolary episodes as sheep, flutes, shepherds, and amoebic poetry are to pastoral ones, and yet seem to be comparatively neglected, or else formulated as individual observances rather than a pattern. Intercepted Letters thus examines a number of epistolary tropes—in authors as wide-ranging as Euripides, Ovid, and the authors of the Historia Augusta—as it argues for the importance of epistolarity in analyzing the poetics of reading in the ancient world.

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Editorial Reviews

Richard Armstrong
This is a thoughtful and well-written analysis of an understudied phenomenon in ancient literature. Jenkins's chapters sparkle with erudition and lucid discussion in a manner that draws the reader into a complex and playful world of misdirected missives. His topic raises issues that sit squarely at the intersection of classical studies and post-modern literary theory, and he is to be commended for showing equal competence in both fields, and in a style that is extremely enjoyable to read. In sum, a fine work of elegant complexity that bodes well for this young scholar.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Thomas E. Jenkins is an assistant professor at Trinity University.

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Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction Chapter 2 Palamedes and the Death of the Author Chapter 3 Cicero's Wayward Letters Chapter 4 Epistolary Warfare Chapter 5 Forsenic Letters Chapter 6 Kinetic Letters in Drama Chapter 7 Ovidian Letters Chapter 8 Letters in the Historia Augusta Chapter 9 Postscript Chapter 10 Bibliography Chapter 11 Index

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