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Book chapter

Символическая повесть. Часть 1

С. 108-134.
Брагинская Н. В., Шмаина-Великанова А. И.

In this paper we introduce a new literary genre, that of “symbolic tale”. The paper reflects a collaborative effort of a multi-year seminar at RSUH, devoted to comparative study of classical, judeo-hellenistic, and early Christian prose. According to our definition, symbolic tale is a literary text based on traditional folkloric and mythological images, which are rethought in relation with some actual and important ideological, religious, or social goals. These goals are attained by way of a narrative demonstration, i.e. by reciting a “story” rather than discursively. Such a story should be long enough, and should have a complex and amusing plot involving several personae. The lifeworld of a symbolic tale is organically rich and manifold, its actors impersonate some deep meaning, and their deeds are universally significant. The ancient author of a symbolic tale does not realize the fact that he is writing some “prose”, because the fiction is here just a by-product of performing an important ideological task. Symbolic tales may mark starting points and border lines in the history of culture and literature, not only in the antiquity but also in more recent times. In this first part of our paper, we analyse and compare some of the most general aspects of those ancient texts, namely, their ideological goal, narrative asceticism, particular qualities of actors, “speaking names”, the length of the story and the number of personae. This first part will be followed by an analysis of such aspects of a symbolic tale as its rather peculiar time flow, its compositional features, its folkloric or mythological background, its difference from both allegory and propaganda, the role of secondary (literary) archetypes, and, finally, its borderline position in the history of literature.