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A Poetics of the Twelfth-Century Medieval Greek Novel

Panagiotis Roilos

ISBN 9780674017917

Publication date: 02/28/2006

This work offers the first systematic and interdisciplinary study of the poetics of the twelfth-century medieval Greek novel. This book investigates the complex ways in which rhetorical theory and practice constructed the overarching cultural aesthetics that conditioned the production and reception of the genre of the novel in twelfth-century Byzantine society. By examining the indigenous rhetorical concept of amphoteroglossia, this book probes unexplored aspects of the re-inscription of inherited allegorical, comic, and rhetorical modes in the Komnenian novels, and offers new methodological directions for the study of Byzantine secular literature in its cultural complexities. The creative re-appropriation of the established generic conventions of the ancient Greek novel by the medieval Greek novelists, it is argued in this wide-ranging study, has invested these works with a dynamic dialogism. In this book, Roilos shows that this interdiscursivity functions on two pivotal axes: on the paradigmatic axis of previously sanctioned ancient Greek and—less evidently but equally significantly—Christian literature, and on the syntagmatic axis of allusions to the broader twelfth-century Byzantine cultural context.


  • Amphoteroglossia, in its analysis of rhetorical manipulations, generic complexity, and the various tensions made possible by the novels' "discursive plasticity", is undoubtedly the most thorough and most perceptive study ever written of these works, and one from which the Byzantine writer comes through forcefully as one fiercely determined to show his independence while artistically keeping within the overlying strictures of the rhetoric of the Second Sophistic; but it is an independence susceptible to appreciation only by highly sophisticated readers, both ancient and modern. Amphoteroglossia is, moreover, destined to retain for decades to come the priceless ability to provoke further analysis and evaluation.

    —A. Littlewood, Speculum


  • Panagiotis Roilos is George Seferis Professor of Modern Greek Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 376 pages
  • Center for Hellenic Studies

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