This project offers the first comprehensive reconstruction and interpretation of receptions of ancient novels (1st-4th cent. AD) in (Greek, Arabic and western vernacular) secular narrative from Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages. Novel Echoes follows up from the ERC Starting Grant project Novel Saints (on hagiography). It does so by taking ancient novelistic receptions towards entirely new, unexplored horizons.
Our knowledge about the early history of the novel is incomplete. Receptions of ancient novels have been studied for periods from the 11th and 12th cent. onwards but not systematically examined for preceding eras – much to the detriment of the study of both narrative (then and later) and the history of fiction. This project pursues the hypothesis that different secular, narrative traditions in this period were impacted (directly or indirectly) by ancient novelistic influences of different kinds and adopted (and adapted) them to various degrees and purposes; and that, since the ancient novel is a genre defined by its own fictionality, its reception in later narrative impacts notions of truth and authentication in ways that other (often more authoritative) literary models (e.g. Homer and the Bible) do not.
Novel Echoes strikes a balance between breadth and depth by envisaging three objectives:
1. the creation of a reference tool charting all types of novelistic influence in secular narrative from the 4th to the 12th cent.;
2. the in-depth study of particular sets of texts and the analysis of their implicit conceptualizations of truth, authentication, fiction and narrative;
3. the reconstruction of routes of transmission in both the West and the East.
Given the project’s innovative focus, it will enhance our understanding of both the corpus texts and the early history of the novel; place the study of corpus texts on an improved methodological footing; and contribute to the theoretical study of the much-vexed question of how to conceptualize fiction.