Postliminium: Enslavement and Return in the Ancient Novel
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Cochran, Christopher George
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CitationCochran, Christopher George. 2020. Postliminium: Enslavement and Return in the Ancient Novel. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation examines the theme of enslavement and return from enslavement as a frame for the return narrative (nostos) of the ancient Greek and Roman novel, with a particular focus on the role of the Greek and Roman law of slavery. Building on a growing body of scholarship on slavery in the novels (including the work of William Owens, Keith Bradley, William Fitzgerald, and John Bodel, among others), I argue that enslavement complicates the texts’ ability to reach narrative closure. The telos of a typical novelistic narrative is the chaste, lawful marriage of the protagonists, but both their chastity and the lawfulness of their marriage is threatened by their enslavement. The frame is the Roman legal concept of postliminium, the rights of return of a citizen enslaved abroad. Of particular relevance is the rule that a marriage could not be recovered through postliminium (Dig. 126.96.36.199). My reading of return from enslavement in the novels complicates Bakhtin’s view that the novels’ protagonists are not changed by their adventures.
Chapter 1 explores the theme of enslavement in the novels of Chariton, Xenophon of Ephesus, Achilles Tatius, and Heliodorus. In this chapter, I apply a distinction between reading for the telos of the text and reading for the middle. Teleological readings emphasize the continuity of the protagonists’ internal freedom, whereas reading for the middle emphasizes the reality of their external enslavement. Chapter 2 examines the theme of return from enslavement in the same four Greek novels. Applying the concept of postliminium, I argue that the novels use the law to problematize the protagonists’ return. Chapter 3 compares the novels of Longus and Petronius, which both construct fictional social underworlds that subvert conventional ideologies of slavery. Chapter 4 examines the return narrative in Apuleius’ Metamorphoses. In this chapter, I argue that Lucius’ return to humanity is framed as a metaphorical manumission. Just as a Roman freedperson acquired Roman citizenship, Lucius’ metaphorical manumission is connected to his transposition to Rome at the end of the text. In this way, manumission becomes a model for the translation of the text from Greek to Latin.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368932
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