Emily Wilson

Andrew W. Mellon Penn Faculty Fellow in the Humanities

20102011 Forum on Virtuality

Emily Wilson

Associate Professor, Classical Studies

Reality and Representation in the Ancient Novel

My focus is on the intersection of two different senses of “virtuality”: virtuality as the vivid imagination of an unreal world (approaching the concept of fiction, but with more sense of active participation on the part of the person experiencing the fantasy); and virtuality as the presence of “virtue”, or moral excellence. At the most basic level: is fantasy corrupting? The question, for us, is framed in terms of specifically modern technologies and genres: television, movies, video games, and so on. But did a similar set of anxieties also exist in antiquity? How does the genre make a difference? I hope to address this issue by looking at one particular ancient genre: the Greek "novel", which I will juxtapose with ancient rhetorical theory and ancient discussions of education, to try to analyse ancient feelings about the dangers and temptations of being lost in a work of art.