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Plutarch’s Pythian dialogues: a literary approach

Prouatt, C. (2018) Plutarch’s Pythian dialogues: a literary approach. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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This thesis takes a literary-theoretical approach to Plutarch’s three so-called Pythian dialogues, De E apud Delphos, De Pythiae Oraculis, and De Defectu Oraculorum. It explores the texts from the perspective of their literary qualities: their genre, their unity as a group, and the narrators and narratees they construct. It argues that the three works occupy an important position in the largely Platonic genre of philosophical dialogue, both advertising their Platonic elements to benefit from such associations, and innovating within the genre’s bounds. In his innovations, the author moves beyond what is typically expected of a dialogue, emphasising the works’ unusual Delphic setting, and using this as a starting-point for philosophical discussion. The thesis contends that the three works form a coherent series, not just because of their shared setting and subject matter, but because they all function as protreptics to philosophy, providing readers with a clear guide to practising philosophy by turning to their own surroundings. Finally, this thesis examines, through a study of the works’ dedicatees, the kind of readers Plutarch anticipated. It suggests that the ideal reader of these works, a city-dwelling, career-minded man is deliberately contrasted in the texts with their more philosophical narrators (including Plutarch himself), portrayed as natives of Delphi, affected by both its fortunes and the intellectual preoccupations of its god, Apollo. This highly text-focused, genre-based, and interpretative approach differs greatly from earlier approaches, more concerned with using the texts to understand the history of Delphi itself or the progression of Plutarch’s philosophical thought. Its focus on the reading experience of a contemporary reader, and the selfrepresentation of the author also signal novel ways of approaching these largely understudied texts.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Duff, T. and Kruschwitz, P.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Humanities
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > Classics
ID Code:82391
Date on Title Page:2017


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