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Chapitre d'ouvrage

Mythological Paradigms in the Greek Novels

Abstract : derives from Malcolm Willcock's seminal articles on mythological paradigms in Homer (Willcock 1964; 1977). Reading the Greek novels, I felt they might show parallels with the argumentative use of myth as a paradigm in the Homeric cases of Meleager and Niobe, but this impression remained confused until a more precise research could begin. The clearer instances take place in Daphnis and Chloe, with interesting parallels in Leucippe and Cleitophon. Myth and Paradigm in Daphnis and Chloe Each of the three first books of Daphnis and Chloe contains an example of such a passage. 2 As we will see, they are composed in a similar way, so that it could be called a 'formulaic style' in the Ho-meric manner: 3 an oral narration concerning a young maiden is told to Chloe by Daphnis – in one case the tale is told by another character, whereas Daphnis and Chloe both mime the adventure they listen to. The young girl is in each case pursued by Pan, whom she does not want at all to love – those maidens are actually reluctant to respond to any kind of love and they prefer to disappear or to lose their human nature in a metamorphosis into an animal or a plant. 4 The constant presence of the apostrophe in the vocative (παρθνος, παρθνε, in the first case, κρη in the third one) and the high frequency of elements of comparison to Chloe (οτω καλ) indicate the status of paradigms: they are given as models for the young girl, who must learn a lesson through them. The first example concerns a bird, φάττα as a common name ('wood-pigeon'); under this same name, Φάττα existed first as a nymph as well as a young shepherd and musician. This example also entails, in a very allusive manner, an inserted tale within a tale concerning a tree, who was herself once a young nymph called Pitys (the very name of the pinetree in Greek). Pitys rejected Pan's erotic impulses and was metamorphosed into the pinetree. We read explicitly that Phatta, crowned with pinetree branches, 5 was singing Pan and Pitys. 6 So the story of Daphnis and Chloe contains tales of several Nymphs who were the victims of the same dangerous god, and if we admit that the first instance of the device – Pitys behind and before Phatta – is a model for the other ones, those tales seem to include many similar stories, as if the fate of young girls eternally recurs with the terrible danger of being raped by this quasi-animal god. All of those girls can escape, but at the price of becoming part of the actual surroundings of Lesbos (the lo-1 I would like to thank C. Eades and J. Hallett for their help, Stephen Rojcewicz for his careful revision of my English, and the organizers of RICAN 5 for their invitation. I am grateful for the many comments made by the audience in Rethymnon. I am responsible for any remaining errors.
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Contributeur : Françoise Letoublon <>
Soumis le : jeudi 16 février 2017 - 16:57:42
Dernière modification le : mercredi 15 juillet 2020 - 20:50:04
Archivage à long terme le : : mercredi 17 mai 2017 - 23:34:17


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Françoise Letoublon. Mythological Paradigms in the Greek Novels . Michael Paschalis and Stelios Panayotakis. The Construction of Real and Ideal in the Greek Novel, Michael Paschalis and Stelios Panayotakis eds., 17, 2013, Ancient Narrative Supplements 1568-3532. ⟨hal-01469757⟩



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