Thursday, November 12, 2009

Greek love

The latest of my reading for my Greek and Roman literature class is Daphnis and Chloe. It is an example of the less well-known genre in Greek literature of the novel, and it is also a member of the pastoral genre. It is a romance. It has a happy ending.

The novel is in four parts, written by a fellow who may or may not have been called Longus, about whom nothing else is known. For some reason it impressed me particularly. It is so very very close to being completely saccharine, as the idea of the pastoral genre might suggest to you. Daphnis and Chloe, our hero and heroine, are very much innocents, essentially children, who fall in love while herding their goats and sheep. Daphnis is found as a baby by a goatherd, being suckled by a goat, and Chloe is found by a shepherd being suckled by a sheep. They are of course of noble birth, and so the story goes. It's really a very unoriginal plot, but it remains appealing. It is also so close to being sappy--yet it isn't, somehow.

One feature of the story is that Daphnis and Chloe fall in love and don't realize what it is because no one has ever spoken of love to them; they don't know what it is. This got me wondering about romantic love as an instinct. It is something that's so written of, such a societal institution to us now, that it seems so odd never to have heard of the concept, and how do all these love stories we've all grown up hearing and reading and seeing affect our ideas and feelings of love? So that's interesting to contemplate.

Perhaps in my reading of this I was just in the perfect mental and emotional state to accept and contemplate this story. I can see how others wouldn't be, but if you read it at the right time I think it's a lovely read.

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