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‘Witless in your own Cause’: Divine Plots and Fractured Characters in the Life of Aesop and the Gospel of Mark

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Juxtaposing the Life of Aesop and the Gospel of Mark, this article explores how ancient fiction destabilizes characters, which function as complex and shifting products of storied intersections. Characters are conscripted by discursive plots reflecting both the mysteries of divine ‘providence’ and the interpellative power of ‘discourse’ itself. Plots are neither propelled by pre-existent ‘characters,’ nor connotative of the essence of ‘characters;’ rather, ‘subjects’ are continually constructed and deconstructed in the fractured and ambiguous play of events and context. Ancient novels (reflecting the effects of empire, cultural displacement, and dialogism) represent human subjects as neither purely active nor purely passive. The article implicitly critiques biblical narrative criticism while reading the Gospel of Mark vis-à-vis ancient novels to model a different approach to ancient narrative that problematizes both notions of literary characters as autonomous agents or subjects, and treatments of literary characters as historical referents.


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