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Fall 2015

Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 33

Ancient Fictions: The Ancient Novel in Context
MW 11
Fong Auditorium (Boylston 110)

Prof. David Elmer

Office: Boylston 223
Office phone: 5-4019

Head TF:
Massimo C

office hours: M 1:302:30, or by appointment

Course Description
How applicable is the term novel to the imaginative fiction of the ancient world?
Among the most entertaining texts to have survived from antiquity are the so-called
ancient novels, sensational tales of love, adventure, banditry, and black magic set in
exotic lands. They are also among the most mysterious: we know next to nothing about
their authors, readership, or broader context. They have been interpreted variously as
popular fiction, chick lit, nationalist romance, and religious allegory. We will explore
the many permutations of ancient fiction by reading the five extant Greek novels
(Charitons Chaereas and Callirhoe, Xenophons Ephesian Tale, Achilles Tatius
Leucippe and Cleitophon, Longus Daphnis and Chloe, and Heliodorus Ethiopian
Story), the Golden Ass of the Romanized African Apuleius, Petronius Satyricon, and
several other related texts, as well as readings from contemporary theorists and critics
(Bakhtin, Foucault, Brooks, and others). Questions to be considered include: Is there such
a thing as popular literature in the ancient world? How do the novelists represent
desire, and how does eroticism play into the experience of reading? What are the gender
politics of the novels? What is the relation between ancient novelistic fiction and the
religious movements of antiquity?

None. No knowledge of classical literature or languages is required.

Course Objectives
By exposing students to narratives from a spatially and temporally distant culture, this
course challenges them to think critically about narrative in general as a way of
representing human experience and cultural systems. The hope is that, in this way,
students will be encouraged to interrogate the ways in which other narratives they
encounter shape their engagement with the world around them.


Fall 2015

More concretely, this course seeks to teach and develop critical reading and
writing skills that are generally applicable to literary texts of all periods. Students will
learn to analyze texts in terms of literary strategy, formal structure, and generic
conventions; to think critically about the relations between literary texts and the real
world; and to reflect on the experience of reading from a number of different theoretical
points of view. Class meetings will be conducted in a lecture-with-discussion format
designed to foster a conversation about assigned readings. Writing assignments will
develop the ability to write analytically about literary phenomena.

You will be expected to read between 80 and 120 pages per week (slightly more in Week
8). See the Schedule for assigned readings, which should be completed by the date for
which they are assigned.

Writing Assignments
Written coursework includes four required papers and a fifth section-based writing
requirement. The writing assignments are as follows (see the Schedule for due dates;
more detailed instructions will be circulated as the dates approach):
Paper 1 (2-4 pages): Choose one of the quotations from the Odyssey in
Chariton's novel. Make an argument about how this quotation enriches our
understanding of the scene in which it is embedded. Alternatively, make an
argument about what Chariton's use of this quotation says about how he
understood the passage of the Odyssey from which it is taken. This assignment
aims at developing your appreciation of allusion, a critical aspect of ancient
Paper 2 (3-5 pages): Conduct a close reading of a passage or passages of your
choice from Chariton, Xenophon, Achilles Tatius, or Longus. (Methods of close
reading are discussed in the course Writing Guide, available on the course
website.) Close reading is a vital skill in any kind of literary or aesthetic criticism,
and an essential form of argumentation whenever the meaning of a text or other
document is at stake. This assignment focuses on developing close reading skills.
Paper 3 (4-6 pages total): Shortly before this paper assignment is due, we will
read the remains of several novels of which only fragments survive. The
assignment is to compose a new fragment belonging to the missing portion of
one of these texts, and to write a short commentary giving a reconstruction of the
narrative context and an explanation of the reasons for identifying the work to
which the new fragment belongs. This assignment is designed to give you an
understanding of the challenges faced by papyrologists when fragmentary texts
are discovered, and to provide an opportunity to reflect on the conventions of the


Fall 2015

Paper 4 (6-8 pages): Write an essay on a topic of your choice. Papers should rely
primarily on your readings of an assigned text or texts. For example: analysis of a
recurring motif, narrative device, or other textual feature in one or more of the
ancient novels; comparison of a particular feature of an ancient text with a
comparable feature of a modern novel; examination of the way a later writer
makes use of an ancient text. More detailed guidelines will be distributed in class.
Section-based writing requirement: Each student is required to post a weekly
comment on his or her sections discussion board (on the course website).
Comments must be posted by 12 am (midnight) the night before the section
meets, and should discuss some aspect of one or more assigned readings. They
may take the form of a reply to comments posted by another student. Section
leaders will provide further instructions.
Note: the papers are not meant to be research papers. Although you may make use of
secondary literature, the papers are not intended to involve extensive research.
Extension policy: In order to be equitable to all students, extensions cannot be granted
except in extraordinary circumstances, in which case the request must be accompanied by
an explanatory note from the students Resident Dean. Late papers will be penalized by
1/3 of a letter grade (e.g. A becomes A-) for each day they are late.
Policy on collaboration: Discussion and the exchange of ideas are essential to academic
work. For assignments in this course, you are encouraged to consult with your classmates
on the choice of paper topics and to share sources. You may find it useful to discuss your
chosen topic with your peers. However, you should ensure that any written work you
submit for evaluation is the result of your own research and writing and that it reflects
your own approach to the topic. You must also adhere to standard citation practices and
properly cite any books, articles, websites, lectures, etc. that have helped you with your
work. If you received any help with your writing (feedback on drafts, etc), you must also
acknowledge this assistance.

Class Participation
Students are expected to attend all class meetings, including both lectures and weekly
section meetings. Students are also expected to participate actively in section discussions.
As described in the section on Evaluation, Class Participation counts for 20% of the final

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Students needing academic adjustments or accommodations because of a documented
disability must present their Faculty Letter from the Accessible Education Office (AEO)
and speak with Prof. Elmer by the end of the second week of the term (Friday, Sept. 13).
Failure to do so may interfere with the course staffs ability to make accommodations in a
timely manner.



Fall 2015

Final grades will be calculated according to the following distribution:

Class Participation
Paper 1
Paper 2
Paper 3
Paper 4
Section-based writing


Required Texts
There are four required textbooks:
B. P. Reardon, The Collected Ancient Greek Novels (Berkeley, 2008)
Apuleius, The Golden Ass, trans. Sarah Ruden (New Haven, 2012)
Petronius, Satyricon, trans. Sarah Ruden (Indianapolis, 2007)
These three texts are available at the Coop.
The Ancient Fictions Course Pack
The Course Pack can be ordered from University Readers. To
order your copy of the Course Pack, visit the University Readers
website at
Selected other readings will be distributed through the course website.

Policy on the use of electronic devices

While students are permitted to use laptop computers during lectures for the purposes of
taking notes, they are asked not to use them for any other purpose (e.g. posting Facebook
updates, shopping, or watching movies on Netflix). Furthermore, the use of cell phones
and smart phones is not permitted under any circumstance.

Note: In the schedule of readings, CAGN indicates pages from Reardon; CP
indicates that a reading is to be found in the Coursepack; WEB indicates that a link
to the reading is posted on the course website.
Week 1
W 9/2


Week 2
M 9/7
W 9/9


Read: Odyssey, Scrolls i-xii (WEB)


Week 3
M 9/14
W 9/16

Fall 2015

Read: Odyssey, Scrolls xiii-xxiv (WEB)

Read: Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe, Books 1-3 (CAGN, pp. 17-65);
Konstan, The Invention of Fiction (CP)
1st Section Meeting

Week 4
M 9/21
W 9/23

Read: Chariton, Chaereas and Callirhoe, Books 4-8 (CAGN, pp. 65-124)
Read: Xenophon, An Ephesian Tale, Books 1-2 (CAGN, pp. 125-46);
Bakhtin, Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel, Part I (CP)
1st paper due Friday, 9/25, by 5 pm

Week 5
M 9/28
W 9/30

Read: Xenophon, An Ephesian Tale, Books 3-5 (CAGN, pp. 146-69)

Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Cleitophon, Books 1-3 (CAGN, pp. 170221); Berger, Ways of Seeing, Ch. 3 (CP)

Week 6
M 10/5
W 10/7

Read: Achilles Tatius, Leucippe and Cleitophon, Books 4-8 (CAGN, pp.
221-284); Morales, Vision and Narrative in Achilles Tatius Leucippe and
Cleitophon, pp. 156-72 (WEB)
Read: Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, Books 1-2 (CAGN, pp. 285-318)

Week 7
M 10/12
W 10/14


Read: Longus, Daphnis and Chloe, Books 3-4 (CAGN, pp. 318-348);
Winkler, The Education of Chloe: Hidden Injuries of Sex (WEB)
2nd paper due Friday, 10/16, by 5 pm

Week 8
M 10/19
W 10/21

Read: Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Story, Books 1-4 (CAGN, pp. 349-445)

Read: Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Story, Books 5-6 (CAGN, pp. 445-487);
Brooks, Narrative Desire (CP)


Week 9
M 10/26
W 10/28

Fall 2015

Read: Heliodorus, An Ethiopian Story, Books 7-10 (CAGN, pp. 488-588);

Foucault, selections from The Care of the Self (WEB)
Read: Fragments (CAGN, pp. 801-27)

Week 10
M 11/2
W 11/4

Read: The Marriage and Conversion of Aseneth (CP); The Acts of Paul
and Thecla (WEB); Bowersock, Polytheism and Scripture (WEB)
Read: The Life: The Book of Xanthus the Philosopher and Aesop his Slave
(CP); The Ass (CAGN, pp. 589-618)
3rd paper due Friday, 11/6, by 5 pm

Week 11
M 11/9
W 11/11

Read: Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Books 1-3 (pp. 1-65); Bakhtin,
Forms of Time and of the Chronotope in the Novel, Part II (CP)
Read: Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Books 4-6 (pp. 66-136)

Week 12
M 11/16
W 11/18

Read: Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Books 7-8 (pp. 137-184); Bradley,
Animalizing the Slave: The Truth of Fiction (WEB)
Read: Apuleius, The Golden Ass, Books 9-11 (pp.185-272); Reardon,
Novels and Novelties, or, Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser (CP)

Week 13
M 11/23
W 11/25

Read: Petronius, Satyricon, Parts 1 and 2 (pp. 1-17); Commentaries 1, 2, 3,

and 6 (pp. 129-143, 163-167)

Week 14
M 11/30
W 12/2

Read: Petronius, Satyricon, Parts 3-6 (pp. 18-127)


Final Paper due Thursday, December 10 (last day of reading period), by 5 pm.