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Title: Methodius of Olympus' Symposium, Imperial Greek Literature and the Aesthetics of Hope
Authors: LaValle, Dawn Teresa
Advisors: Güthenke, Constanze
Contributors: Classics Department
Keywords: Chastity
Early Christian Literature
Second Sophistic
Subjects: Classical literature
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Around 290 AD Methodius of Olympus wrote the most famous of his many dialogues, a Symposium along the lines of Plato, conducted by women on the subject of chastity. In this dissertation, I analyze the ways in which Methodius, through this dialogue, both participates in and changes the literary systems of his time. Each chapter looks at a different genre with which Methodius interacts in the Symposium: the philosophical dialogue, the symposium proper, the rhetorical set-speech and the poetic tradition of hymnody. I conclude that within each of these generic networks, Methodius shifts the focus from the past onto the future in his competition for the hearts and minds of his readers, positioning himself against a Second Sophistic aesthetic of nostalgia. My first chapter deals with Methodius’ use of the dialogic genre, concluding that Methodius has a genuinely dialogic intent, creating a mimetic world that is meant to increase the desire of the readers. He connects this to the broader role of the developed imagination as a necessary skill for the Christian to live a life correctly oriented to the future. In the second chapter I show how, compared to other Imperial-era Symposia, Methodius ignores the trend towards compilation and nostalgia (influenced by Xenophon), and instead claims descent from the more focused debate in Plato’s Symposium. Furthermore, he claims to supersede his Platonic model by moving the Symposium’s time and place, pointing not to a party shared by philosophers of the previous generation, but to a future banquet yet to come after death. The third chapter treats Methodius’ relationship with competitive, rhetorical display speeches. The expected rivalry between speakers is minimized, and the danger of competition is smoothed into the idea of variation within a harmonic whole. My fourth chapter examines the hymn that ends the Symposium. While functioning as a closural device, it is a closure that constantly moves forward instead of looping back incessantly. The alphabetic stanzas and the blend of various voices make it a compelling model of the ordered, hierarchical polyphony present in so many other aspects of Methodius’ dialogue.
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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