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Title: Preface to Herodotus: The Prehistory of Prose in the Archaic Age
Authors: Fassberg, Teddy
Advisors: Ford, Andrew L
Contributors: Classics Department
Keywords: ancient greek literature
archaic age
Subjects: Classical literature
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Classical scholarship holds ancient Greek prose literature to have originated in the archaic period in the imposing shadow of Greek verse, primitive and derivative in form, and subservient in status. If this were so, the Greeks would have had little reason to begin writing prose. This dissertation is devoted to answering the question why they did, and argues that the traditional view of the rise of Greek prose is skewed by the western concept of prose. Archaic Greek society did not have a concept of “prose”, and certainly didn’t consider the prose it produced “prosaic”. The confused narrative of the rise of Greek prose results from a similarly confused understanding of the term “prose” in the western tradition, which is typically taken for granted. The introduction discusses the term and advocates taking a pragmatic approach to “prose”, as a language used in situations of distance, concrete and abstract, rather than the traditional rhetorical understanding of it as Kunstprosa, language boasting rhetorical figures. In so doing it lays the groundwork for uncovering antecedent cultures of prose which render the composition and reception of archaic prose intelligible. Chapter 1 argues for the existence of vibrant traditions of oral prose which produced specimens of verbal art endowed with commanding authority. Chapter 2 studies the prose of the earliest Greek alphabetic writing, preserved in inscriptions, and finds it to furnish further evidence for the vitality of oral prose traditions in archaic Greece. Chapter 3 then proceeds to examine a particular kind of written prose which later came to be considered “literary”, and makes the case that what was new in the sixth century BCE was not literary texts in prose, but the practice of attributing texts in prose – and verse – to authors. The language of these texts, in prose no less than in verse, was deeply traditional and highly authoritative. Finally, the epilogue points the way forward to a consideration of the question how the concept of prose later emerged, that is to say how ancient Greek prose came to be “prose”.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Classics

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