Scale, Space and Canon in Ancient Literary Culture

October 30, 2020
Scale, Space and Canon in Ancient Literary Culture

Greek culture matters because its unique pluralistic debateshaped modern discourses. This ground-breaking book explains thisfeature by retelling the history of ancient literary culturethrough the lenses of canon, space and scale. It proceeds from theinvention of the performative 'author' in the archaic symposiumthrough the 'polis of letters' enabled by Athenian democracy andinto the Hellenistic era, where one's space mattered and culturebecame bifurcated between Athens and Alexandria. This duality wasreconfigured into an eclectic variety consumed by Roman patrons andpredicated on scale, with about a thousand authors active at anygiven moment. As patronage dried up in the third century CE, scalecollapsed and literary culture was reduced to the teaching of anarrower field of authors, paving the way for the Middle Ages. Theresult is a new history of ancient culture which is sociological,quantitative, and all-encompassing, cutting through eras andgenres.