Recommend to your Librarian

Defining Greek Narrative

Edited by Douglas Cairns, Ruth Scodel

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

Examines what is distinct, what is shared and what is universal in Greek narrative tradition

The ‘Classic’ narratology that has been widely applied to classical texts is aimed at a universal taxonomy for describing narratives. More recently, ‘new narratologies’ have begun linking the formal characteristics of narrative to their historical and ideological contexts. This volume seeks such a rethinking for Greek literature. It has two closely related objectives: to define what is characteristically Greek in Greek narratives of different periods and genres, and to see how narrative techniques and concerns develop over time.

Show more


Notes on Contributors
1. Introduction, Ruth Scodel
Section 1: Defining the Greek Tradition
2. Beyond Auerbach: The Poetics of Visualisation in the Gilgamesh Epic and Homer, Johannes Haubold
3. Homeric Battle Narrative and the Ancient Near East, Adrian Kelly
4. Narrative Focus and Elusive Thought in Homer, Ruth Scodel
5. Structure as Interpretation in the Homeric Odyssey, Erwin Cook
Section 2: the Development of the Greek Tradition
6. Exemplarity and Narrative in the Greek Tradition, Douglas Cairns
7. ‘Where do I begin?’: An Odyssean Narrative Strategy and its Afterlife, Richard Hunter
8. Greek Scholia on Plot, René Nünlist
9. Who, Sappho? Alex Purves
10. Greek Occasions, Greek Sung Narratives, Lucia Athanassaki
11. Narrative on the Tragic Stage, P. E. Easterling
12. Stock Situations, Topoi, and the Greekness of Greek Historiography, Lisa Hau
13. Helidorus the Hellene
J. R. Morgan
Section 3: Beyond Greece
14. Livy Reading Polybius: Adapting Greek Narrative to Roman History, Dennis Pausch
15. Pamela and Plato: Ancient and Modern Epistolary Narratives, A. D. Morrison
16. The Anonymous Traveller: Greek Heritage or Narrative Universal? Irene de Jong.

About the Author

Douglas Cairns is Professor of Classics in the University of Edinburgh. He has published widely on Greek literature, society and thought, especially the emotions. He is the author of Sophocles: Antigone (Bloomsbury Academic, 2016), Bacchylides: Five Epinician Odes (Francis Cairns, 2010), and Aidôs: The Psychology and Ethics of Honour and Shame in Ancient Greek Literature (OUP, 1993).

Ruth Scodel is D. R. Shackleton Bailey Collegiate Professor of Greek and Latin at the University of Michigan. She has written Credible Impossibilities: Conventions and Strategies of Verisimilitude in Homer and Greek Tragedy (1999), Listening to Homer (2002), Epic Facework (2008), (with Anja Bettenworth) Whither Quo Vadis? Sienkiewicz's Novel in Film and Television, and An Introduction to Greek Tragedy (2010).


This volume offers original and compelling treatments of the ‘Greekness’ of Greek narrative, and it is a provocative beginning to what promises to be a long and exciting conversation… Tradition and innovation meet in this collection, and most stimulating are those essays that combine methodologies, wedding formal analysis with literary interpretation… This is a valuable book, both for the quality of the individual essays and the scholarship that it is sure to generate.

- Robin J. Greene, Providence College , Bryn Mawr Classical Review

The more Greek literature is viewed against the background of the great West Asian literary traditions, the stranger it looks. This audacious volume, a landmark work in the emerging fields of historical narratology and comparative literary history, probes the roots of that strangeness, and how distinctively Greek ways of telling stories came about.

- Nick Lowe, Royal Holloway, University of London

This collection is unparalleled, whether as individual essays or as a whole. We could of course isolate this or that article according to personal interest, but the whole book is an exceptional opportunity to cross narrative Greek literature in all its genres, from Homer to Heliodorus, from epic to lyricism, to tragedy, to historiography and the novel, and to extend it towards the ancient Orient (Bible, Mesopotamia) and even Japan until modern times. The authors' reflections and arguments are of consistently high quality, and the bibliographic arsenal (especially Anglophone) is well supplied.

(Translated from French)

- Françoise Létoublon, University Grenoble Alpes (Emerita), Agora

Also in this series