Aesopica As A Distressed Genre

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Published In

Ancient Fables—Sour Grapes? New Approaches

Series Title



This article uses Susan Stewart's conception of distressed genres to explore a number of patterns and stylistic features of the ancient fable tradition. In particular, the article suggests that Stewart's analysis of diverse processes of distressing finds parallels in the tendencies of Greek and Latin authors to represent fable-telling as an older, dynamic form of oral discourse and to craft a style that invokes the simplicity, purity, and rusticity of the fable's imagined past. Fable-telling in Greek and Latin literature is multivoiced in ways that resonate with Stewart's account of distressed forms: on the one hand, Aesopica involves storytelling in the conventional sense; on the other hand, fables in Greek and Latin also communicate fabricated accounts of their own supposed history, circulation, and cultural value. More speculatively, Stewart's claims regarding the cultural and historical motivations behind acts of distressing during the late 17th and early 18th centuries may be extended to suggest that ancienct Aesopica, as a distressed form of expression, was especially accommodating of authorial reflections on changes and developments within literary culture, particularly as they pertain to the status and circulation of written texts and shifts from orality to literacy.

Published By

Georg Olms Verlag


U. Gärtner and L. Spielhofer

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