Naïve Justice in the Ancient Greek Novel

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Bruce D. MacQueen


This article discusses three trial scenes from three different ancient Greek novels (by Chariton, Achilles Tatius, and Longus), in which naïve justice seems to be deliberately subverted. The titular concept of “naïve justice” is defined here in terms borrowed from Aristotle’s Poetics, where the term “double resolution” is used, disparagingly, of plots in which the good characters are all rewarded and the bad characters all punished. The argument is made that the trial scenes under discussion should raise doubts in the reader’s mind as to which of the parties is truly guilty, and which is truly innocent. This can be seen as a reflection of unexpectedly mature ethical sensibilities on the part of these often-underestimated writers, who seem to have grasped that the “double resolution” may make the reader feel good, but has little to do with the real world.


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MacQueen, B. D. (2016). Naïve Justice in the Ancient Greek Novel. ETHICS IN PROGRESS, 7(2), 14-30.
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Author Biography

Bruce D. MacQueen, University of Tulsa

PhD in Classics, Visiting Associate Professor at the Henry Kendall College of Arts & Sciences, University of Tulsa; author of Myth, Rhetoric, and Fiction: A Reading of Longus's Daphnis and Chloe, Univ. of Nebraska Press 1991. MacQueen has taught at Wake Forest University, Purdue University, Harvard University (as a visiting researcher), and the University of Dallas. He also spent 20 years in Poland, e.g. at the University of Silesia and the Medical Academy of Bydgoszcz, where he founded the first Polish Department of Neurolinguistics, before returning to his native country to teach at the University of Tulsa. His research interests include both ancient languages and modern neurolinguistics.


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