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Letters and CommunitiesStudies in the Socio-Political Dimensions of Ancient Epistolography$
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Paola Ceccarelli, Lutz Doering, Thorsten Fögen, and Ingo Gildenhard

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198804208

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198804208.001.0001

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Ancient Approaches to Letter-Writing and the Configuration of Communities through Epistles

Ancient Approaches to Letter-Writing and the Configuration of Communities through Epistles

Chapter:
(p.43) 1 Ancient Approaches to Letter-Writing and the Configuration of Communities through Epistles
Source:
Letters and Communities
Author(s):

Thorsten Fögen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198804208.003.0002

The chapter explores reflections on the practice of letter-writing, with equal attention to instructional handbooks (esp. Demetrius’ Περὶ ἑρμηνείας‎, Iulius Victor’s Rhetorica, Pseudo-Demetrius’ Τύποι ἐπιστολικοί‎, Pseudo-Libanius’ Ἐπιστολιμαῖοι χαρακτῆρες‎, and Erasmus of Rotterdam’s De conscribendis epistolis) and the meta-generic statements that letter-writers routinely embed in their correspondence (with a special focus on Cicero, Ovid, Seneca, and Pliny the Younger). In both types of sources, what one might call the social dimension of style registers as a primary concern: in order for the letter to fulfil its purpose, namely to generate a special bond between sender and recipient, the chosen idiolect has to be ‘appropriate’ (πρέπον‎/aptum) to the interpersonal relationship and its specific circumstances and exigencies. Shared stylistic values and the willingness of the letter-writer to adjust his character to that of the recipient generate a sense of community between the correspondents.

Keywords:   epistolary theory, rhetorical handbooks, Latin epistolography, epistolary style, ancient letter-writing and the classical tradition

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