Da Lesbo al New England: Dafni e Cloe di Longo e Praying for Sleep di Jeffery Deaver


  • Luca Graverini


Longus in his Daphnis and Chloe and the contemporary best-selling writer Jeffery Deaver in his Praying for Sleep (1994) describe two very similar episodes, where an insect (respectively, a cicada and a bee) offers a boy a welcome pretext to fondle his girlfriend. Both stories involve the main characters' difficult and sometimes traumatic attainment of their full sexual awareness.

Besides these and other parallelisms, there are several hints that Deaver, despite explicitly addressing his novels to a consumer audience that does not necessarily possess a thorough scholarly education, has some knowledge of Classical literature. It is therefore likely, although hard to prove with certainty, that he has read Longus and used Daphnis and Chloe as a direct source of inspiration. Rather intriguingly, contemporary best-sellers can contribute a chapter to the long history of the reception of ancient narrative. This clearly does not mean that there is a seamless continuity between ancient and contemporary novels. A comparison between the two scenes allows us to draw some conclusions about the different systems of expectations in the intended audiences of two novels separated by such a long time span.

Luca Graverini teaches Latin literature in the University of Siena. He has published extensively on the ancient novel, including the monograph Literature and Identity in Apuleius' Metamorphoses (Columbus, OH 2012; or. ed. Pisa 2007) and the volume, written with Wytse Keulen and Alessandro Barchiesi, Il romanzo antico. Forme, testi, problemi (Rome 2006). He has edited, with Marcos Carmignani and Benjamin T. Lee, Collected Studies on the Roman Novel – Ensayos sobre la novela romana (Cordoba, Arg. 2013) and, with Benjamin T. Lee and Ellen Finkelpearl, Apuleius and Africa (New York-London 2014). He has also contributed to the latest Groningen Commentary on Apuleius' Metamorphoses Book 11 (Brill 2014), edited by Wytse Keulen and Ulrike Egelhaaf-Gaiser.