Dreams and Suicides. The Greek Novel from Antiquity to the Byzantine Empire.
Routledge, London / New York, 1996. IX,235p. Original black silver titled cloth with dust wrps. Dust wrps at head spine a little bit wrinkled. A few light remains of pencil annotations and markings on endpapers, in preface and from pp.1-3. Dr MacAlister chooses to investigate this world (the world of the Greek novel op ost classical Greek and Byzantine literature - ND) through two common plot elements, dreams and suicide (or suicidal intention). She uses these two features of the novel to point up an overall emphasis in these works on the characters' sense of helplessness in the face of an all-controlling Chance whose workings they cannot fathom, and their anxieties in this situation. In her analysis of the place of dreams in the plots of the ancient Greek novels, she makes use of ancient dream interpretation. In considering suicide, she takes as her starting-point Durkheim's work on suicide and its connection with an individual's relationship with his or her society, and the strength or weakness of the links between individual and community. (…) One of the most interesting aspect of Dr MacAlister's book is that it deals both with the ancient Greek novel, and with the imitations produced in Byzantium in the twelfth century. The latter have been subject to a rather superficial judgement which minimises their importance and interest, treating them merely as aspects of an archaising culture. As she points out, this hardly does justice to the social and cultural changes of the intervening millennium: imitation in the twelfth century is something very different, however seemingly slavish it may be, from a similar-seeming production of the second century. The major difference on the ideological, and therefore cultural, level, is of course the impact of Christianity. A world-view imbued with Christianity must necessarily place the individual in a very different relationship with the cosmos from that of pagan culture. MacAlister examines this difference in relation both with dreams and with suicide (a very different matter from pagan times in a society with a strong belief in the afterlife, and in which suicide is seen as a mortal sin). In so doing, she puts the Byzantine novels in their immediate context, a context which gives significantly different meaning to seemingly similar elements in the novels. If the earlier Greek novels appear to deal with one set of contemporary anxieties, their Byzantine successors can be read as implicit comment on a very different set of problems. This work performs a valuable service for those interested in the relationship between earlier and later Greek novels, focusing on two important structural elements in them to do so.’ (JONATHAN WALTER in Classics Ireland, 1998, pp.161-64).