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Title: The literary past and the Hellenistic symposium
Author: Leventhal, Max Peter
ISNI:       0000 0004 7227 1854
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis explores the presence of canonical texts in the Hellenistic period beyond individual reading habits. It utilises the interpersonal context of the symposium to understand the place and significance of literature as a social phenomenon. Methodologically, it combines art and text, synthesising literature which represents, and literature visualised and depicted at, Hellenistic symposia. My over-arching argument is not simply that the post-classical symposium persists, contrary to much scholarship which represents it as dead or as vain re-enactments. Rather, I claim that studying the Hellenistic symposium exposes the social mechanisms which ensured that a Greek literary past remained relevant even in the Hellenistic world. Chapter One discusses the historical shift from the Archaic and Classical symposium to the Hellenistic symposium, and defends the latter’s often-questioned existence. It also theorises a new approach for handling images and texts related to the Hellenistic symposium. the subsequent chapters offer case studies showing the utility of this approach. Chapter Two considers the reception of the Phaeacians in relation to the symposium and Chapter Three looks at the theatrical tradition. Chapter Four focuses on Callimachus’ Iambi and the Letter of Aristeas, texts which in different ways have the symposium as a structuring principle and are concerned with the literary past. The aim is to highlight how the argument obtains even when the symposium is an imagined, textual one. The Conclusion advances the thesis in two ways. First, it extends my argument beyond the Hellenistic period with a short study of the visual and verbal reception of the comic poet Menander at Late Antique symposia. Second, its theorises the greater significance of studying the literary past and the Hellenistic symposia for a wider conception of how literary reception works.
Supervisor: Gagné, Renaud Sponsor: University of Cambridge
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Hellenistic Poetry ; Symposium ; Literary Culture