Lost in a Town of Pigs: The Story of Aesop's Fables
Berkeley: University Of California, Berkeley, 1999
PhD dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley.
'Using the structuralist approaches of Propp, Permiakov, and Greimas, I define the Aesopic fable as the story of a mistake, an exemplum in which the protagonist is either a fool who makes a mistake and suffers its consequences, or a wise character who does not make a mistake. This structural analysis of the plot is able to explain the relationship between stories about animals in the natural history writers (Pliny, Plutarch, and Aelian) and similar stories about animals found in Aesop's fables. I then analyze the morals of the fables, comparing the figurative language of the morals to proverbs and riddles. As an oral folklore form, the Aesopic fable features an 'endomythium,' a moral 'inside' the fable. Promythia and epimythia, morals added before or after the fable, are features of the fable as a literary form. To illustrate different aspects of orality in the fable's morals I analyze versions of 'The Belly and the Members' fable as reported in Livy, Plutarch, and Shakespeare's Coriolanus. The promythia and epimythia start to supplant the endomythia in the verse fables of the Roman poet Phaedrus, who also reinterprets the traditional Aesopic plot structure in more ethical terms. Odo of Cheriton's medieval fables provide an explicitly Christian reinterpretation of the Aesopic tradition, while supplying the fables with allegorical interpretations similar to the allegories found in the Physiologus and bestiary tradition. I then compare Odo's allegories to the allegories of the Esopo toscano, an Italian translation of Walter of England's fables in which the animals are anthropomorphic to a greater degree than in earlier Greek or Latin fables. The dissertation contains an index listing the different versions of the fables that are analyzed in these shifting historical and literary contexts." - abstract
ISBN: 0-599-71161-2; PQDD: AAT9966387
Last update December 11, 2021