Tales of the Unexpected: Paradoxography, Fiction and the Culture of Wonder (CLA3260)

15 credits

This is a module for readers who love whodunnits, horror, and all things weird and wonderful. We will take as our starting-point the development in the ancient world of the literary genre which was devoted to the bizarre – paradoxography – and examine how this genre begins to inflect narrative fiction in the imperial period, producing a variety of strange and intellectually compelling works, from Phlegon of Tralles’ Marvellous Tales to the sordid and magical adventures of the Roman novels (Petronius and Apuleius). Besides their obvious appeal, these texts offer us a unique insight into the ancient experience of fiction, and the (sometimes bizarre) intellectual tastes of imperial readers and their world-view. The module will also examine the dialogue between these fictions and their contemporary culture of wonder, including the world of the Roman amphitheatre and ancient avatars of the circus and freak show.

There are no formal prerequisites for this module, but imagination, intrepid curiosity and a commitment to the transformative power of fiction are a must.