Monday, February 15, 2010

Moore. Christopher. Review of Simon Goldhill, ed. THE END OF DIALOGUE IN ANTIQUITY. BMCR (February 2010).

Goldhill, Simon, ed. The End of Dialogue in Antiquity. Cambridge: CUP, 2008. This collection seeks to explain why dialogue--a written genre--apparently lost popularity during the Christian era. Nearly all the papers are really interesting. The book's scope--from Thucydides and Plato, to Cicero and late sympotic literature, to the rabbinic tales and the Church Fathers--is wondrous. Contrary to the claims of its précis and introduction, though, as revisions from a 2006 University of Cambridge conference, it is hardly a "general and systematic study"; it has instead the vices, and the virtues, of a broad-ranging conversation. I read this work of history as being concerned with two questions: (1) What reasons do we have for bringing together certain literary works as instances, either central or marginal, of "dialogue form"? and (2) What motivated authors to write the works of this genre, and what social trends--especially openness to political or religious dialogue--enabled such writing? The strength of this collection is in bringing together lots of discussion of works we might or might not want to call instances of "dialogue form" and lots of authors whose motivation to write dialogues is worth serious attention. The weakness is that it rarely presents the questions sharply or consistently enough for the reader to assemble some form of answer. . . . (Thanks to Ed Brandon for the link.) Read the rest here:

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