Jonathan Master, Bryn Mawr Classical Review Grethlein's book is a powerful study; it is brilliantly written with impressive results. Felix K.
Maier, Journal of Hellenic Studies Maria Osmers, The Classical Review. Lees de eerste pagina's. Reviews Schrijf een review. Kies je bindwijze. Direct beschikbaar.
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Stel een vraag. While Jonas Grethlein most certainly focuses on experience and teleology in historical narratives, his interest is not historiography per se. He is most interested in the perspective from which prose authors whose focus is the past view the past. For Grethlein, experiential narratives and teleological narratives are two sides of the same coin. Both reflect a human desire to come to terms with time.
In the introduction and throughout the chapters on experiential narrative, Grethlein emphasizes that the capacity of narrative to create experience has been underappreciated in recent historical theory. Teleological narratives, on the other hand, look back at the past with the benefit of hindsight and see connections between events that were not visible to the participants at the time. Teleology gives readers the control over time they otherwise lack in their lives. Grethlein is clear that all the authors discussed employ elements of both experiential and teleological narrative, but that each one falls closer to one end of the scale or the other.
Accordingly, he splits the book into two main pieces. Part I, Experience: Making the Past Present , offers case studies of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, and Tacitus as authors whose works fall on the experiential end of the scale. For Grethlein what unites the canonical classical historians — Herodotus, Thucydides, Sallust, and Tacitus — with the biographer Plutarch and the later Christian autobiographer Augustine is what they chose as their vantage point on the past. Grethlein sees a significant opportunity for a new understanding of these texts and for the relationships between their authors in the examination of their conception of time.
By focusing on the vantage points various historians adopted, Grethlein sees new differences between Thucydides on the one hand, and Polybius and Sallust on the other. Here Grethlein shows how Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, and Tacitus employ various techniques to make the past present for readers.
Grethlein shows that Thucydides employs a number of strategies to restore presentness to the past. Internal focalization opens the scene to readers through the perspectives of the participants rather than a view from on high. Speeches are also crucial to fusing narrative time with actual time. Readers spend the same amount of time reading the speech as listeners would have hearing it.
Speeches also allow Thucydides to keep a low profile as narrator and embed evaluation of the events within the context of the action. In terms of accomplishing its goals of demonstrating how experiential narrative can be used to place the reader into the past and to force readers to confront the situations the historical actors did, this chapter is the best in the entire book. As a general rule a visible narrator breaks the mimesis of narrative and does not produce an experiential account. But Grethlein suggests that in Tacitus the past is as opaque and unknowable as the future.
Who did what and why was as unclear to contemporary witnesses as it is to readers now. Part II takes a less sympathetic approach to its theme than the first part does. Grethlein consistently implies that explicitly embracing hindsight to write about the past is an artistic failure of sorts. These qualifications also have the effect of serving as criticism of the use of teleology.
Experience and Teleology in Ancient Historiography: Futures Past from Herodotus to Augustine
While this of course is true, it does not diminish the success of historiographical narrative that embraces hindsight. The purpose of ancient historiography, however, is not to recreate the feelings of the participants in the events but rather to teach readers something about those events.
Furthermore, as Grethlein himself persuasively shows, each of his three examples of teleological historical narrative, Herodotus, Polybius, and Sallust, complicates the idea that history moves toward a specific end; and each shows that the vantage point one takes greatly influences, if not determines, the interpretation of past events. This is not to say that Part II does not still contain much insight.
Darius and Xerxes clearly choose the wrong one.