Utopian Themes in Three Greek Romances


  • Jean Alvares


The ancient Greek romances are ideal in more than their protagonists’ wealth, high status, beauty, exceptional love and the happy ending they eventually find. Here is a preliminary theorization and overview of a wider explication of the romances’ ideal themes. Three approaches are drawn upon to provide examples for such a project: the myth-thematic approach, as exemplified by the work of Northrop Frye, and those of the Marxist critics Fredric Jameson and Ernst Bloch. Myth-thematic criticism highlights those ideal and persistent patterns the ideal romances share with profound myths such as that of Demeter and Kore or with eschatological discourses as well as with medieval and later romances. Jameson and Bloch consider that utopian dimensions exist in all artistic works, if only in disguised and displaced forms. Their approaches help the critic delineate a romance’s ideologies (which necessarily employ ideal themes) and its complex ‘political unconscious’, which, as in Chariton’s romance, can provide some serious images of a superior political life. Such an expanded understanding of the ancient romance’s ideal dimensions can provide a fruitful source of new insights for scholars and will assist those who wish to teach the romances in the broader contexts of later western literature, art and the processes of historical and cultural change.