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Ancient LettersClassical and Late Antique Epistolography$
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Ruth Morello and A. D. Morrison

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199203956

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203956.001.0001

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Alciphron's Epistolarity *

Alciphron's Epistolarity *

Chapter:
(p.257) 11 Alciphron's Epistolarity*
Source:
Ancient Letters
Author(s):

Jason König

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199203956.003.0012

This chapter examines Alciphron's Letters, which portray a world of longing and loss, a world of fragile happiness and comic disillusionment. There are four books: Letters from Fishermen, Farmers, Parasites, and Courtesans. Each of those four groups reveals through its letters its own desires and sufferings, its own extravagant dreams and bathetic failures. Two themes (as far as they can be separated) are particularly prominent: precarious or failed aspiration to material gain, love, or physical comfort; and precarious or failed aspiration to social advancement or role-swapping. The second of those preoccupations leads to an impression of interconnection between the different parts of the work, in the many letters where characters express their desire to cross from membership of one group to another. The unrealistic character of the characters' dreams is matched by the inaccessibility and unreality of Alciphron's world for its readers. This chapter asks how far the text's epistolary form works to intensify its thematic obsessions, with a particular emphasis on formal issues using the work of Janet Altman as a starting-point.

Keywords:   Alciphron, epistolarity, ancient letters, Oxyrhynchus Papyri, unanswered letters, epistolary naming

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