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ancient Greek literature

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Ancient Greek Literature.

From the legendary beginnings of poetry until the end of Hellenistic epoch

ISBN 978-954-07-4683-8. St Kliment Ohridski UPress, 2019

Summary of the author Nikolai Gochev:

 The book was written during the 1-st half of 2018 but many of the notes containing summaries of texts (Iliad, Odyssey, Hesiodus’ poems, Herodotus’ Histories, some of the Plato’s dialogues, Ëthiopian novel) were made earlier as additional materials for teaching ancient Greek literature. The idea was to create a new kind of textbook (I do not know of another similar textbook on ancient Greek literature or any other university subject). Ancient literature textbooks for university students usually contain an introduction on genres and authors in chronological order and offer as much information on those as possible – according to ancient sources and educational traditions in the field from the last 200 years. It is considered natural (and so rarely noticed) that they are made as notes of lecture, i.e. monologues. At the same time the university education in some countries (Bulgaria among them) along with lectures also offers teaching in the form of seminars, which we usually call “exercises”.

This is the significant novelty on offer here – creating a textbook which visualizes not a lecture, but a seminar class. The dialogue contains 16 chapters, called “days”.

The participants are 12 people, five men and seven women. They discuss ancient Greek literature themes in chronological order and according to the contents of an overview (synoptic) university course. In the introduction the already extant textbooks in Bulgarian are mentioned and it is discussed what is called ancient Greek literature. There is mention of the supposed (legendary) pre-Homeric poets and texts in prose. Then we move forward to poetry’s extant texts – Homer, Hesiodus, lyric, tragedy, comedy. These conversations make the first part of the book (“poetry”), which contains 9 chapters (“days”). The second part (“prose”) contains 4 chapters. In it we discuss the term “prose”, then historiography (Herodotus, Thucydides, less of Xenophon), rhetoric (eloquence and rhetoric theory during V and IV c. B.C.) and philosophy (pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle). The third part contains discussion of Hellenistic literature (III-I c. B.C.) and is made up of 3 days. Mentioned are the genres of poetry (comedy and related genres, hymnography, idyll, epigramme) and of prose (historiography, geographical and philological studies, philosophy).

The dialogue ends with the promise of a continuation (17-24th day) which will hopefully be written someday. The notes are extensive, mainly due to the above mentioned summaries of texts (also included are those of books I-IX of Aristotle’s Metaphysics). There are testimonies referring to pre-Homeric poets and Homer. Along the course of the conversation discussions are presented, the foundations of which lie in other actual courses. They refer to literature’s perception through the ages in the Byzantine-orthodox world (Classic education and idea of classical antiquity in Bulgaria – day 14) and in the West (Antiquity in literary fiction – day 10); up until the work of creators of ancient Greek literacy (The intellectuals in antiquity – day 5-6) and to its geographical and cultural foundations (Culture and history of the islands in the Eastern Mediterranean – day 12).

Besides the so-called “days” the dialogue is divided in other parts, the names of which are borrowed from ancient Greek drama – prologue, parodos, episode, parabase, kommos, agon.


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