Romancing the Classics: The Hellenic Standard and its Vicissitudes under the Empire


  • Froma I. Zeitlin


The title of this essay refers to the context of its original presentation at a Yale conference (2012), entitled ‘Marginality, Canonicity, Passion.’ My contribution, now updated and revised for this publication, was meant to introduce to a varied audience the ancient Greek novel and the vicissitudes of its reception, presented as a case study of changing tastes and values in contemporary attitudes and interests. It engages such issues as chronology and origins; sex, gender, and erotics; the influence of other cultures (Egypt and the Near East), along with concepts of Hellenismos and paideia, to focus finally on the case of Heliodorus before considering the future of prose fiction as situated between canonicity and marginality.

Froma I. Zeitlin is Ewing Professor of Greek Language and Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature (emerita) at Princeton University where she taught from 1976-2010 and was awarded an honorary degree in June 2016. A specialist in ancient Greek literature from the archaic through the literature of the Empire, author of several books, numerous essays, and edited volumes, she has advanced the study of gender, performance studies, and literary theory, focused especially on Athenian drama in the first instance, and the ancient novel, in the second. Her relevant publications in this context include essays on Petronius, Longus, Chariton, Achilles Tatius, and post-classical Homer.