Intellectual narratives and elite Roman learning in the 'Noctes Atticae' of Aulus Gellius
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This thesis offers a new interpretation of the literary techniques of the Noctes Atticae, a second-century Latin miscellaneous work by Aulus Gellius, with new readings of various passages. It takes as its main subject the various ways in which Gellius narrates and otherwise represents mental and intellectual activity. It proposes a typology for these representations in Chapter One, the Introduction. Chapter Two examines the “dialogic” scenes, which relate the conversations of characters, in the context of the history of dialogic writing. It argues that Gellius's unique approach to relating conversation, besides revealing specific concerns about each stage of ancient education, encourages readers to develop strategies for imagining and reconstructing the intellectual character and lifestyle that lie behind an individual's speech - in short, to see every instance of conversation as a glimpse at others' mental quality. Chapter Three of the thesis examines Gellius's narrative accounts of his own reading experiences, a body of ancient evidence unparalleled in both substance and detail. Focusing on his depictions of reading Pliny the Elder, it shows the way Gellius, in the traditionally public contexts of ancient reading, seeks to invent a performative space in the privacy of the reader's mind. Chapter Four explores Gellius's essays and notes which, despite lacking clear narrative frameworks, nonetheless share common themes with the rest of the Noctes, and can be understood as representations of the mental activity and standards that Gellius associates with his contemporaries' relationship to the past. The Conclusion points the way for further applications of the thesis's conclusions in Imperial intellectual culture and beyond. This thesis suggests a new approach for examining depictions of the acquisition, evaluation and use of knowledge in the Imperial period, and contributes to the ongoing scholarly discussion about the reading of miscellaneous literature.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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