Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2001.05.01
Francisco Rodríguez Adrados, History of the Graeco-Latin Fable, Volume One: Introduction and from the Origins to the Hellenistic Age. Leiden: Brill, 1999. Pp. xviii, 739. ISBN 90-04-11454-8. $191.50.
Reviewed by Rev. Gregory I. Carlson, Creighton University, Omaha, NE
Word count: 5697 words
A student of ancient fables today should have four big books at hand: Perry's Aesopica, Nojgaard's La Fable Antique, van Dijk's Ainoi, Logoi, Mythoi, and Rodríguez Adrados' History of the Graeco-Latin Fable. Publication now of the first volume of the latter in English represents a singular service to the profession. We owe gratitude to Brill for publishing, to Leslie Ray for translating, and to Francisco Rodríguez Adrados (to whom I will henceforth refer simply as "Adrados") and Gert-Jan van Dijk for updating this first volume and making it available in English.
This volume offers a comprehensive survey of the ancient Greek fable from its beginning through the Hellenistic age. I agree with Adrados that the book's best contributions lie in "its ideas on the origin of the fable, the collection of Demetrius and the Hellenistic collections, the influence of Cynicism, the reconstruction of the metrical models and of the relationships between the collections, and finally, the relationship between all the phases and ages of the fable, up to the Middle and Humanistic Ages..." (xvii). This volume's contribution on the last of these points is of course incomplete but addressed now with the recent publication of Volume Two by Brill (Mnem. Suppl. 207).
This long and difficult but rewarding book has three parts: an overview of the Graeco-Latin fable, the Greek fable until Demetrius Phalereus, and the fable in the Hellenistic Age.
Part One's overview offers sensible approaches to the terminology and definition of the ancient fable and then a general inventory of the Graeco-Latin fable. For Adrados, the fact that no single word won out as the appropriate way to distinguish this genre from all others underscores the need to look to the collections themselves, not to any one term or its definition, to find what the collectors themselves thought a fable was.
Even in the early work on the definition of the Graeco-Latin fable, the reader can see that Adrados adopts a different literary approach from that taken frequently in the history of fable criticism. That latter approach often establishes a simple, well-defined kind of text as a fable and then eliminates everything else, including items found in ancient collections of fables. Adrados by contrast works genetically from a set of elements some of which, at a particular time in the development of fable, may not be present and may receive various emphasis. Thus Perry insisted on these good but maybe-too-absolute elements of fable: that it present a fictitious, particular one-time action with a moral, paraenetic or personal intention.
In response, Adrados will first add two, namely a prevalence of animal themes and a frequent element of satire and criticism. Secondly, he will refuse a power of veto to any one element in a "closed" definition of fable. From the beginning, fable "is a genre defined by the presence of many features, some of which may be lacking here or there; one that is hard to separate from other genres, one with not very clearly defined limits" (17). Thus for Adrados, these elements are common but not always present in fables: it is fictive, animalistic, symbolic, evaluative, and refers to a single event. Adrados' descriptors to a great degree point to the same elements that Perry would include, but he explicitly refrains from insisting on their presence. He looks instead directly at the ancient fable, placing it in its original environment and then looking at its development and evolution.
Adrados starts his road to definition wisely with the "first stage" situation presented by anecdotes in the ancient anonymous collections. Each of these presents an exemplum told in a specific situation which defined its meaning. We move from a situation ("first stage") into a fable ("second stage") and then back out to the situation ("first stage") to articulate the meaning of the fable in that situation. There is commonly a link or prologue before and a conclusion or epilogue after the second stage. Thus the fable has a symbolic character. About the time of Aristophanes, a selection occurred among the various kinds of literary elements treated this way. That is, fable was separated off from other genres like myth, and a selection was made in favor of those stories that were unique, predominantly fictitious, predominantly animal, and almost always comic and dissuasive. As fables moved into these collections, their only connection with the original first stage was the promythium and/or epimythium giving the application of the fable to reality.
As Adrados works to create an inclusive and developmental definition of fable, he recognizes that, from the beginning, there were two main types. Aetiological tales (the minor type) can have a single protagonist and can be without an agon. They explain reality, rather than exemplify a behavior that must be followed--though sometimes there is a secondary upshot that one ought to follow one's own nature. Agonistic or confrontational tales (the major type) are centered in an agon or confrontation between two animals or between an animal and a man. From the agon either an explanation or a paraenesis, although sometimes also a lamentation or sarcasm, may follow. Often questions of inferiority and superiority are discussed; it is sufficient if one of the agonists is disarmed morally, made to appear ridiculous, or proved wrong. Often a "survenant" appears, a character coming from the outside and making the final comment. Adrados' identification of two main types is expressly not meant to exclude more marginally represented types.
It is typical of Adrados' care with the original evidence that he concludes Part One with an inventory of the Graeco-Latin fable. In this inventory, Adrados takes several important positions. First, he challenges a facile presumption that three important fable documents--the lost collection of Demetrius Phalereus, the Rylands Papyrus, and the Augustana collection--descend in a straight line and are virtually equivalent.
Adrados offers a sense of the Augustana collection of fables as a hybrid of various elements; this aggregate belongs to a line of the fabulistic tradition distinct from the Rylands papyrus and from Demetrius' collection. Adrados affirms Nojgaard's structural analysis of the Augustana but insists that this analysis does not apply to all of the Augustana's fables.
For Adrados there has never been a single archetype of the Augustana; it represents popular literature in an open tradition, in which variants are frequent and are not necessarily faults. The dates of various formulations of the Augustana span a time from the beginning of the Imperial era until the fourth or fifth century CE. Adrados dates our Augustana to the fourth or fifth century CE; Phaedrus knew and used an old stage of the Augustana which was almost identical with our Augustana in terms of content.
Adrados reviews his own position that the Augustana's aggregate was especially dependent on a semiprosified version derived from an earlier iambic and choliambic version of fables. Adrados finds verse in most of the fables of the Augustana and here reviews some of that evidence, which he had published earlier. I will comment on his methodology in working with metrical evidence at the end of this review.
Adrados finds it a mistake to postulate independent ancient collections of works corresponding to different literary genres. The latter are in fact subsequent classifications. Fables of animals, myths, anecdotes, and developed maxims were probably all in Demetrius' collection. Adrados thinks in terms of an early broad matrix genre that we can call "fable." This genre was the source of later specialized collections of romances, myths, anecdotes, and "fables" in the more specific sense. It is not that various early collections flowed together into collections of fables but that fables were progressively sorted out from their relatives in the one big genre.
We still lack a complete inventory of the ancient fable. Perry's collection, the most complete, is lacking in several ways. Perry has often missed the early archaic or classical forms of a fable in deference to its later derived forms, and he often presents only one version when there are several available. Adrados strives to avoid the crucial error of attributing elements from a later version of a fable to an earlier version of the same story. I understand that Volume III of Adrados' work will appear in English this year. Particularly because of its supplements, it should help to address this problem.
Part Two is the heart of this book, stretching over some 370 pages. Here Adrados begins with the Classical Age. The fables of the Classical Age appear as exempla with a concrete first stage, either explicit or implicit. That is, they arose to address a specific situation; once the fable had been related, the story went back to the first stage and carried on.
Adrados believes that situational fables (the response by someone to a situation), as distinguished from agonal or aetiological fables, are rare in the Classical Age. The animals we find in fables of the Classical Age have fixed natures. Power is represented, for example, by the lion, the eagle, and the hawk. In the first Greek fables, the victory of the strong is used to criticize the foolishness of the weak, or else the strong are punished by being accused of being unjust. If any theme predominates, it is the victory of ingenuity over force. The fox dominates the Classical Age fable. The world which the fables present is without pity or chivalry. Ancient and heroic values are either branded as immoral or else skillfully outwitted. The fable is told against something; it discourages, criticizes, and ridicules. Aetiological fables occur and are purely explanatory. Agonal fables involve a physical or dialectic confrontation, not just a dialogue or situation.
Adrados proceeds to eliminate from his collection of Classical Age fables those that lack certain qualities--e.g., a comic character or a doctrine that is "against something." He further removes situation fables with a single character and fables with structures very far removed from the rather simple stories which he has so far considered. Here (169) appears a possibly circular method that will worry some readers. He who starts out with an inclusive "matrix genre" now excludes some items like maxims (171). On what basis, and with what degree of certitude? Further, he excludes fables with a Cynic or Stoic content. He dates later than Demetrius those fables without a trace of meter. He is wise to admit that there is no fixed rule for separating later imitations from their Classical antecedents.
To understand Greek animal and vegetable fables in their original context, Adrados turns first to other "second stage" presentations of animal and vegetable life in Greek literature. He examines portents, similes, enigmas, and proverbs. He finds bridges linking the world of each to the world of fable. The point here is not that the fable "comes from" any of these but that these genres come from a common basis, with imperceptible links. Crucial to the comparison in all of these is the presupposition that nature is constant. The lion and eagle are strong and generous. The dog is ferocious and a butcher. The serpent is treacherous. (A reader of fables might urge caution at this point. By comparison with other genres, fable may depend less on the constant nature of a given animal. We often do not know what the goat of this story will do until we see him in action.)
Further, Adrados looks at the direct presentation of animals in choral lyric, comedy, and satyr plays. He finds bridges to the fable, especially in the agonal element, the search for power and sovereignty, and the mimicking and satirical character. Again, the point for Adrados is that these different genres spring from a common basis. What is that common basis? For Adrados, the animalistic basis of the festival in Greece gave rise to the comedy and the satirical drama and the fable. There was a long process of development that started with the animal-god or the animal rooted in some way in worship and dance and--with the intervention of a period of playful use of animal motifs--the literary animal represented by the fable. Thus various playful and comic elements proper to the festival (like the agon, the dance, and the disguise) and the banquet have penetrated the fable. The fable incorporates religious, literary, and playful elements in addition to an abundance of materials from the observation of nature. The festival, the banquet, and iambic poetry included themes found strongly in fables: myths, insults, exhortations, maxims, anecdotes, enigmas, tournaments of ingenuity, and insulting comparisons.
But there remains a leap to be made from animal motifs to animal fable. What provoked that leap? The model of the Oriental fable. This leap differentiates fable from myth and gives animals speech and human social positions. There always was a non-poetic fable tradition, rooted in the spoken and improvised setting of the banquet. But from the time of the inception in the seventh century BCE of the artistic iamb and elegy on the basis of iambic and dactylic elements in popular cults, the iambic and elegiac fable were created. The artistic fable came about as part of the iambic artistic genre now created.
In this context of the festival and banquet Adrados introduces the figure of Aesop. While there is a likely historical core to the figure of Aesop as a narrator of fables on Samos, by the fifth century BCE this historical core had already become a legend. Two major factors influenced the shape and history of this legendary figure. The first was the Greek and specifically Delphic figure of the pharmakos, the ugly figure who takes on human guilt and is expunged but somehow returns as a triumphant figure of new life. The figure of Aesop, like the fable, belongs in the iambic and comic environment of the festivals. He was a character who was mimicked at the festival and who narrated fables. The second major factor influencing the development of the Aesop legend was the Oriental Life of Akihar, which presents an adviser who relates fables and maxims.
Since it was the Oriental fable that influenced the development of the Greek fable in the situation that Adrados describes, he devotes serious attention to what is known of the Oriental fable. Adrados first reshapes the old debate on the relative priority of mutual Greek and Indian influence. Such influence before Alexander was unlikely; what is more likely is that both cultures were influenced by Mesopotamia. Adrados finds significant likelihood of Mesopotamian influence from the seventh and sixth centuries BCE upon the frame, content, and structure of Greek fables. Mesopotamia is undoubtedly the origin of the theme of the ruling lion, his court, and his ministers the fox and the jackal. He also finds some Egyptian influence on the Greek fable. The introduction of the monkey into the world of the fable certainly originates in Egypt. Adrados concludes this chapter with specific fables to which definitive Oriental, Mesopotamian, or Egyptian origin may likely be attributed.
Adrados steps back on 367 to offer a panorama of the fable first in the Archaic Age and then in the Classical Age. Readers wanting to read the kernel of what he has to offer may want to come to these two short sections first.
For Adrados, the collections arose from the classical fable ascribed to Aesop, liberated of mythical material, not distinguished from the anecdotal and aetiological material. First came the "second grade" stories in which the first stage is an event in which Aesop takes part and speaks. Starting from here, the general type was created in which the first stage was reduced to a promythium or epimythium of a general character, without anecdotic precision--and now the whole collection was ascribed to Aesop.
Adrados' panorama includes on 398-402 a valuable inventory of specific Archaic and Classical fables by genre and author, with additions in the supplement (407-9). Adrados adds a list of Classical themes in later fables (403-6).
The last and longest chapter in this central part of the book deals with the collection of Demetrius Phalereus from around 300 BCE. All later fable collections (including Phaedrus, Babrius, and the Rylands Papyrus) are related to each other through this common ancestor, and we need to postulate various lost collections between Demetrius and these later collections.
What did Demetrius do? He gathered together perhaps 100 or 150 fables used as exempla in Classical literature, he eliminated their frames or first stages, and he wrote a new draft of them as a collection within a series of new anthological genres proper to the Hellenistic age, like the collections of chreiai that appeared at the same time. Collections of materials, some of them embellished by original drafting or even original material, were popular in the tradition of the Aristotelian school. Demetrius rewrote previous material using the literary prose of the first koine. When necessary, he gave the fable a new structure. He made his selections according to the criteria used in Socratic literature. Adrados sees Demetrius as reducing, as far as possible, the ancient iambic fable of Archilochus and others to fit this model. His intent was both documentary and literary. As for content, he restricted use of the anomalous types, like those about the simple imposition of force or the simple punishment of the wicked. He avoided situation fables focused on the lament of a victim. He followed the defining criteria being developed around "Aesopic fables" in the fifth century and later: that is, he made them increasingly satirical, fictitious, and critical but not exclusively animalistic.
Adrados presents an elaborate description of the Greek syntax of the Augustana. He finds the same syntax in the Rylands Papyrus. Since the latter belongs to a tradition independent of the Augustana, he believes that the Augustana preserved the compositional and syntactical resources of Demetrius' collection and even of his prose precedents in the fourth century.
Adrados addresses particularly the question of epimythia in Demetrius' collection. Working with meter, formulae, vocabulary, and themes, Adrados finds that the collection of Demetrius had few epimythia, fewer promythia, and no independent titles. The epimythia in the collection were found with those fables that presented a situation in which Aesop or another character told a fable. Here Aesop naturally drew a conclusion for his audience. These few epimythia in Demetrius' collection were the model for subsequent collection-builders to add epimythia to other fables, and they supplied elements of the formulae that would characterize later epimythia. Later promythia are most easily explained for Adrados as being derived from epimythia.
Adrados works at a plausible method for creating an inventory of the fables in the collection of Demetrius. It speaks for a story's inclusion if it comes from the Classical Age, shows the characteristic syntax of Demetrius, conserves a metrical remnant, and is not used obviously for themes or ideas that are clearly Hellenistic.
One can enjoy watching Adrados pull together what he has presented so far on 491-5, where he takes a series of individual fables and assesses their elements in an attempt to fix the relative antiquity of the oldest version we have. A new genre had been created: Demetrius took us from the exemplum-fable to the fable of the collections. Fables are now ready for further transformation into a poetic genre.
In Part Three Adrados looks at the development of fable in the Hellenistic Age. Negatively, Adrados is maintaining that a direct derivation of our known collections from that of Demetrius Phalereus is a mistaken notion. For him, there was an entire ramification of Hellenistic collections of fables. These collections saw fable pass through metrical versions and come first under heavy Cynic and then Stoic influence.
If Demetrius had 100 fables, Hellenistic collections swelled the number to perhaps 300 or 400. The development of fable collections came in two steps: the creation of a collection of fables in verse derived from the collection of Demetrius Phalereus--in trimeters or choliambs and without epimythia or promythia--and then the derivation, during the first century BCE, from these of successive collections of semiprosified or prose fables. In this second phase there were some with promythia and some with epimythia. Thematically, Hellenistic fable collections bring new animals like the fly, flea, tortoise, and frog. They bring many new human anecdotes and fables that were not in Demetrius' collection. In Adrados' view, Demetrius had as human stories only the fables of the fortune-teller and the astrologer, which he took over from the Classical Age. Now Adrados finds a whole social panorama reflected in the human characters of fables.
According to Adrados' speculation, there were fewer mythical fables in the Hellenistic collections than in Demetrius. Many fables in the Hellenistic collections were created from proverbs, similes, enigmas, chreiai and historical stories. In particular, the chreia climaxing in a bon mot--whether a lament by the defeated or a taunt by the victor or by the survenant--became an important sort of sub-genre within fable collections.
Adrados takes the Augustana as the best indicator of what a Hellenistic collection was like in content. Those who want to see what help Adrados' method can give them for understanding individual fables will particularly enjoy 521-528. Here he takes Hausrath's first forty fables and gives the likely history and provenance of each.
Adrados arrives then at his crucial hypothesis. At a given moment sometime in the third century BCE, somebody took the initiative of versifying Demetrius' collection, to which other fables also were added. This step was taken within the Cynic movement. The Cynics adopted the fable for their teaching and developed it in accordance with their ideology because the ancient fable agreed with many of their positions. The Cynics were the systematic enemies of the old social order. For their fables they took the choliambic meter with Callimachus as a model.
Starting on 549, Adrados does a detailed study of metrical formulae in the anonymous collections. Metrical remnants are particularly concentrated in the formulae. These, in turn, are especially well preserved in the closing statements of fables. The metrical developments and proclivities he finds fit with the choliambic metrics peculiar to the Cynics. Adrados' conclusions on the stages of development of the fable from Demetrius to our known collections are summed up in a helpful stemma on 601.
For Adrados, Cynicism as a movement had a profound effect on remodeling the fables of Demetrius. Cynicism versified his prose and added many new fables to his collection. Adrados tracks carefully and effectively the Cynic themes and emphases that are apparent in the fables he sees coming from the Hellenistic collections. The Cynic phase is followed by a much less important and less extensive Stoic phase, with emphasis on moralizing, religiosity, and seriousness. Now, for the first time, on the eve of the Imperial Age, fable is moral and didactic, ready for use in elementary teaching and in schools of rhetoric.
In his examination of the Hellenistic Age, Adrados turns next to two chapters on the Life of Aesop. One examines the movement from the legend of Aesop to a life of Aesop, and the other looks at the life of Aesop as heavily influenced by Cynical thinking. For Adrados, the vita Aesopi as we know it comes from joining two elements noted above--a confluence of the ancient Greek legend of the pharmakos who satirizes and tells fables and the Oriental tradition of wisdom literature in a biographical frame--to a third element, Cynic thinking.
Adrados thinks that the prototype of our Lives must have been from Hellenistic times (and not, as Perry held, from the first century CE). The Life belongs to the genre Adrados describes as "the novellesque biography of realistic type, strongly influenced by Cynicism" (649). Demetrius probably had put a life of Aesop at the beginning of his collection of fables. It was probably short, scholastic, and erudite, rather than lengthy, popular, and novellesque. The Cynic movement did for the life just what it had done for the fables: expanded and changed what had been passed on. The fables were transmitted independently of the lives; the latter are not tied to the former in any intrinsic way. The fables and the life were first brought together in Byzantine times. Adrados has just laid out Cynic themes he finds in the fables; it is thus immediately clear how heavily these themes also dominate the vita as we have it.
Adrados closes this volume with comments on the irradiation of the Hellenistic fable--on Indian and Egyptian fable, respectively. He sees Greek fable collections providing a stimulus for the Indian fable. He finds so many Cynic themes in Indian fables that he favors a later Hellenistic date for the importation, namely at a time when the fable collection would already have undergone the Cynic expansion described above. Similarly, Adrados finds Greek fables serving as the model for Egyptian fables rather than vice versa.
What can one say in evaluation of this work? First of all, the book is immensely revealing. There is so much to learn here! Adrados brings together studies on a range of genres and eras, including many studies of his own. The insights are at the highest structural levels, e.g., on the interpenetration of many other genres with fable, especially at the early stages. They are at the literary-critical level, e.g., when Adrados pleads for comprehensive representation of the texts of the fables. We need, he argues conclusively, to distinguish versions of various eras; the literature until now has often satisfied itself with presenting just one version, often late, of a given fable. The insights are abundant again at the level of individual fables. A reader learns, e.g., that two aspects of a fable like "The Wolf and the Lamb" as we know it tend to make their appearance only after the Classical Age. That is, fables purely and simply about the wickedness of the powerful and fables whose interest is focused on dialogue more than on action were rare prior to the Hellenistic Age (439). Many of us stand to learn most from Adrados when he addresses individual fables in the light of the historical criteria he evolves, as when he reviews the first forty of Hausrath's fables.
The translation and publication of this work is a special benefit to those, like the present reviewer, who study ancient fables but would be unable to follow Adrados' argument in detail in the original Spanish. The updating of this classic work with the supplements at the end of each chapter only adds to the value of the work. They are especially helpful for bringing the literature on each chapter up to date for the period since the book's appearance twenty years earlier. These supplements were prepared by Adrados and van Dijk. Van Dijk also compiled the extensive Index Locorum (715-39).
Adrados' accomplishment in way after way is to contextualize the fable. While he might see himself as opposing Perry on many points, many of us will see him rather as complementing Perry's formal approach with a genetic, developmental, context-sensitive approach. The context I refer to here has to do with the cultural setting of fable, with other literary genres, and with the antecedent and subsequent history of fables themselves. The merit of Adrados' approach is that nothing is handled in isolation.
As I am asked to offer a critical view of the book, I offer a commendation, a set of comments on the method, and a criticism.
The commendation has to do with metrical evidence. Adrados' discovery of the metrical remains in prose versions of fables provides some of his strongest evidence for postulating a versified Cynic collection of fables following upon the prose collection of Demetrius. I commend Adrados for using this metrical evidence only in consort with other--linguistic, structural, and thematic--types of argument. Many of us would not trust ourselves to claim much that is definitive on the basis of metrical patterns, especially when any kind of inversion or transformation is allowed. Growing amounts of material to be analyzed and growing sensitivity to metrical patterns and licenses will bring greater and greater suasive power to metrical arguments. Still, in the aggregate of factors that work together to suggest the character of hypothetical documents, many of us will place less trust in metrical than in other forms of argument. Adrados, to his credit, is aware of the danger of subjectivity in the reconstruction of metrical formulae (551) and of the possibility of a vicious circle in metrical analysis (574).
My comments have to do with the method that Adrados adopts. I believe that this method yields, at this point in our understanding of the topic, plausible results but no more. The value of an approach like Perry's is that it sets forth clear and firm criteria on what constitutes a fable. Those criteria may fit our culture rather than any era of ancient Greek culture. Arguments built on Perry's formal basis are solid and can yield even certitude. Their drawback is that they may say nothing about ancient culture.
By contrast, at this point, I do not think that what Adrados argues for in this volume on the evolution of fable can be shown to be certain rather than plausible. The strength of his method is that it takes various criteria together to build a strong case for the likely character of fables, e.g., in the collection of Demetrius and in the postulated Cynic versified collections. There is still plenty to learn from further analysis of existing data and from finding even more data that can support this kind of research, but at the present time Adrados' method can only increase the likelihood of the results. This method may be the best we have now, but its limits need to be recognized.
The method gives only plausibility because it is built upon a certain level of circularity. Adrados himself expresses his awareness at several points (like 422) that the method could be circular. I have mentioned above one place where this problem can be felt acutely, at the start of the tradition. He must postulate that some things were important in the early history of fable and exclude others on that basis without knowing for certain what was in the minds of authors or hearers then. This form of argument is set to find plausibility rather than certainty. Adrados demonstrates the likely way in which the Graeco-Roman fable evolved.
A reader will feel, I think, a twinge at the early point mentioned above when some forms of fable are excluded from the earliest group. Because he is aware of the strong Cynic and Stoic influence on the fable later, Adrados will exclude from the earliest sets of fables those in which Cynic or Stoic teaching is clear. The exclusion makes sense, but it brings problems. First, who is to say that a particular author or a particular fable in the sixth century BCE might not express a theme that will come to be known in time as typically Cynic? It is unlikely but not impossible. Secondly, at this point the reader is trying to build a solid foundation on which further inquiry can be based. The reader will be asked later to presume what has been shown about these earliest fables. But what he or she has been shown has already been shaped by Adrados' conception of what is coming later. Of course the Cynic fable will look different from the earlier fable, since the earlier fable was defined to exclude it!
The historical chain that Adrados postulates creates a particular systematic difficulty for the reader. This difficulty is perhaps inevitable in a historical analysis that stretches over so much time and material, and so many pages, and Adrados himself is aware of it. Nothing in the historical chain is really firmly established until all the ages have been covered. The attempt to describe the fable as Adrados understands it at any point along the way thus depends on understanding its last ancient development in the Imperial Age. There is then a sense in which the reader of this tome cannot be expected to understand the book fully or to assent fully to it before having read Volume Two. The need to anticipate information and argument even in the shaping of the view of the earliest phases of fable thus means not only that a reader of this volume has a picture that is incomplete; he or she also has a view that is not yet securely founded.
My criticism concerns the book's style. The book is admirably organized at the macro level, as a study of the table of contents shows. One could wish that the same organization were carried down into the organization and presentation of material within its chapters and paragraphs. This reader often longed for a topic sentence to establish what was most important in a paragraph! How nice it would be to get a short summary statement that did not immediately bring more material into the argument! The style is, if you will, Mediterranean rather than Anglo-Saxon or Germanic. A reader at all new to the subject will struggle to know what is most important and what is mere qualification. One paragraph on 33 includes "but," "yet," "however," "yet," and "on the other hand." That paragraph is not untypical. In fact, the next paragraph begins with "But." Further, Spanish is apparently comfortable with sentence-fragments. For this struggling reader, they added to the challenge of following the argument.
It is perhaps because of a similar lack of stylistic discipline or micro-organization that one reads of the Classical fable that "If any theme predominates, it is the victory of ingenuity over force" (159) but then reads the following later: "Ingenuity and cunning, even deception are anti-values, marginal areas of Classical morality, which are now [in Hellenistic collections] transformed into central ones" (605). I hope other readers can find ways to reconcile these two statements. My only hope for reconciling the two statements is that "Classical morality" on 605 might refer to the values of the Classical Age rather than to the values of Classical Age fables. For crucial points and contrasts like this one, this reader would have appreciated more specific help.
These criticisms are small in comparison to the sheer weight of learning and insight in this valuable book!