Wednesday, November 24, 2010

διήγημα and διήγησις or narration and narrative

The second of the preliminary exercises in the progymnasmata is narrative.  Hermogenes makes a distinction between διήγημα (diegema, narrative), and διήγησις (diegesis, narration), the first being the part, the second, the whole.  That is a diegema is a short narration of an event which is part of a larger whole of a diegesis or narrative.  Thus, the story of Jesus healing of a blind man in Mark 8 is a diegema whereas the gospel of Mark is a diegesis.

Theon lists six aspects of narrative: (1)Person (prosopon), (2) Action, (3) Place of Action, (4) Time of Action, (5) Manner of Action, and (6) Cause of these things.

For some time now, New Testament criticism has engaged in literary analysis of the NT.  One criticism of that type of analysis has been based on terminology, namely that the concepts and terminology for literary criticism is based on modern literature which may or may not correspond to the terminology of ancient literature.  I think that this is a potent criticism.  Yet, looking at the progymnasmata, we can come up with an ancient terminology and see how it might correspond to modern literary terms.

For example, in the list above, many of the terms used can be related to modern literary terms.  Person can go with Character.  Action with Plot, Place and Time with Setting.  So, we can begin to build an ancient literary criticism using the progymnasmata. 

This can be more fully carried out as one continues with Theon's list of properties of Person (prosopon).  Thses lists are called topoi lists from the Greek topos. Theon writes:
"The properties of Person are origin, nature, training, disposition, age, fortune, morality, action, speech, death, and what followed death." (Theon 78, Kennedy).
Using these categories, one can start to build an ancient view of character, or as modern literary criticism would say, "characterization."  That is, these are the aspects through which the ancients looked at a character.

Michael Martin, in a recent article, has persuasively argued that the topoi lists found in the progymnasmata, can be viewed as a template for ancient biographies, specifically the gospel of Luke.  See Micheal Martin, "Progymnastic Topic Lists: A Compositional Template for Luke and other Bioi?," New Testament Studies 54 (2008), 18-41.

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