The Curious Incident…: polypragmosyne and the Ancient Novel


  • Richard Hunter


This essay examines some of the ways in which ancient novelists exploit and dramatise the polypragmosyne and curiosity of their characters, thus also suggesting a link between such curiosity and the practice of reading novels itself. The principal texts considered are the Life of Aesop, in which the search for a man completely without curiosity is an important episode, the Satyrica of Petronius in which ‘curiosity’ runs riot at Trimalchio’s dinner-party, and Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, where the central character suffers for his curiosity and the whole novel advertises the polypragmosyne of the literary interpreter. The investigation is set within the context of Plutarch’s essay ‘On polypragmosyne’.

Richard Hunter is Regius Professor of Greek at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College. His research interests include ancient comedy, the novel, Hellenistic poetry and its reception in Rome, and ancient literary criticism. His most recent books are The Shadow of Callimachus (Cambridge 2006) and Critical Moments in Classical Literature (Cambridge 2009). Many of his essays have been collected in On Coming After: Studies in Post-Classical Greek Literature and its Reception (Berlin 2008).