At the Limits of Art. A Literary Study of Aelius Aristides' 'Hieroi Logoi'.
Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013. X,223p. Hard bound with dust wrps. 'Downie treats the unusual form of the Hieroi Logoi as a deliberate literary innovation by Aristides (rather than some failing on his part, as is so often assumed), and argues that the very strangeness of the text speaks in important ways about Aristides’ literary ambitions and sense of his place in the world. In fact, one of the greatest contributions of this book is the thoughtful way in which it approaches the jumbled impression created by the Hieroi Logoi as a whole, arguing that Aristides aimed to make the work an 'open text' (one that reveals its process of composition) in order to call attention to problems of memory and memorialization, and 'to capture more adequately the hybrid voice that he sees as characteristic of human-divine collaboration' (39; see also 128-29). Downie takes this argument even further when she suggests that the work does not aim to be sequential or complete, but rather 'atemporal, comprehending the divine perspective of eternity' (51). Thus Aristides uses the surface disorder of the Hieroi Logoi to convey his closeness to the god Asclepius, who can be seen as both the dedicatee and the coauthor of Aristides’ works. In discussing Aristides' dream narratives, Downie argues that we should understand as his aim the rhetorical effect of enargeia or 'vividness'. Downie sees this as a sign of the author's literary ambition because dreams provide 'the ultimate test of enargeia in language', in that 'their status as objects of perception is ambiguous' (67). Dreams provide opportunities for self-promotion in other ways as well; by having interpretation occur within the dream itself, Aristides 'turns his dreams into a free narrative space backed by divine endorsement, which allows him to dwell on the social and professional implications of his dreams' (79). (...) Ultimately, Downie argues that rhetoric and religion are closely intertwined throughout Aristides’ work, and that the orator seeks to claim for prose the divine inspiration usually seen as belonging only to poetry. We see this not only when Aristides’ dreams place him among the great Greek writers of the past, but also when he seeks immunity from local and provincial offices on the basis of his special oratorical gifts and with the backing of Asclepius. This book reveals Downie’s profound engagement not just with the Hieroi Logoi but also with Aristides’ entire (and extensive) oeuvre. (...) anyone interested in Imperial-era rhetorical culture and spectacle, the representation of divinity or dreams in literature, or the increasingly popular Aelius Aristides will find this volume illuminating.' (DANA FIELDS in Classical World, 2014, pp.235-37).