From Homer to Hollywood, the western storytelling tradition has canonised a distinctive set of narrative values characterised by tight economy and closure. This book traces the formation of that classical paradigm in the development of ancient storytelling from Homer to Heliodorus. To tell this story, the book sets out to rehabilitate the idea of 'plot', notoriously disconnected from any recognised system of terminology in literary theory. The first part of the book draws on developments in narratology and cognitive science to propose a way of formally describing the way stories are structured and understood. This model is then used to write a history of the emergence of the classical plot type in the four ancient genres that shaped it - Homeric epic, fifth-century tragedy, New Comedy, and the Greek novel - with insights into the fundamental narrative poetics of each.
• First book-length study of 'plot' • New accessible but powerful theory of plot, surfing the new wave of theory bridging the gap between literary criticism and cognitive science • Special studies of Homer, tragedy, New Comedy and the Greek novel offer new insights into the fundamental narrative poetics of each, backed up with detailed analysis
Part I. The Classical Plot: 1. Approaches; 2. A cognitive model; 3. The narrative universe; 4. The classical plot; 5. Unclassical plots; Part II. The Classical Plots: 6. Epic myth I: Iliad; 7. Epic myth II: Odyssey; 8. Dramatic myth: tragedy and satyr-play; 9. Dramatic fiction: New Comedy; 10. Epic fiction: the Greek novel; Conclusion; Glossary.
'This brilliant book … is immensely rewarding … it is stimulating stuff and certain to cause major reconsiderations in the way we think about plots ancient and modern.' Literary Review