SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
HIGHLY CUSTOMIZABLE THEME
SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
HIGHLY CUSTOMIZABLE THEME
SECOND MEETING OF THE
NORTH AMERICAN SECTIONS
INTERNATIONAL PLUTARCH SOCIETY
"Plutarch's Unexpected Silences"
15-18 May, 2019
By Itidorfa07 (Own work) CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons (cropped from original)
Lion of Chaeronea Statue

Abstract Details

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5/15/2019  |   2:30 PM - 3:00 PM   |  Hampton Inn Conference Room

The Silences of Plutarch's Narrator and Characterization

This paper explores Plutarch's employment of silence as a means for the characterization of his figures, and especially of his main protagonists in the Lives. The focus in this paper is cases where the narrator is silent and refrains from providing information or from mentioning key elements or features. While undoubtedly this presentation is a manner of abridging material (cf. Pelling, 1980: 'chronological compression' or 'telescoping') and advancing the plot, the claim here is that it also serves a narratological purpose. In these cases, the narrator mimics the characters depicted and thus sheds light on their personality in two ways: (1) The absence of certain details from the portrayal underscores the narrow vision of the characters themselves, who are partially blind to their surroundings and are also not aware of their own vices. A special case would be scenes in which an actual silence of the characters is emphasized by the narrator's own omission. (2) The narrator's selection of material, resulting in the disappearance of certain features and figures from the account, highlights the moral choices made by the characters themselves. On occasion, another layer is introduced when the narrator's criticism, directed at the authors he uses because of their omissions, stresses the characters' bad choices. The examples given in this paper display Plutarch's techniques of indicating that some silence is involved: (a) by playing with the readers' expectations stemming from their acquaintance with external accounts (intertextual silence); (b) by gradually revealing in the narration that some details were previously skipped over (narrational silence); (c) through a comparison with other Lives or the synkrisis (intratextual silence); (d) by explicitly acknowledging an omission on the narrator's part (Herodotean silence) – the latter case would address the De Herodoti Malignitate as well.

Eran Almagor (Primary Presenter), eranalmagor@gmail.com;
Eran Almagor is the author of studies on Plutarch and other Greek Imperial writers (Strabo, Josephus), the Achaemenid Empire and its image in Greek literature, and the modern reception of antiquity. He is author of Plutarch and the Persica (Edinburgh: EUP, 2018), co-editor of Ancient Ethnography: New Approaches (London: Bloomsbury, 2013) and The Reception of Ancient Virtues and Vices in Modern Popular Culture (Leiden: Brill, 2017).

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