Greek Romances = Action Movies?

I’ve been reading Bakhtin’s long essay on the chronotopic (that’s his word for time and space) in the novel. Basically, in this essay he’s laying out how the use of time and space has changed since the first novel-like books appeared.

As the earliest novel precusors, Bakhtin identifies the Greek romances. What happens here is that there’s a man who falls in love with a woman, but before the marriage can be achieved something happens, leading to an array of adventures which cumulate in the successful marriage.

Now, a lot of other novelistic genres also use this form, but what Bahktin says sets the Greek romances apart is the utter meaninglessness of everything that happens between the failed marriage and the successful one. All the adventures are just trivial events along the way that serve to put off the final marriage–they lead to no character development, to no discovery about the places where they occur; Bakhtin even says that the characters can’t be said to age during these adventures.

As I read this description of the Greek romance and what defines it, it became clear to me that this more or less mirrors the shape of a large number of action movies. Often the movie starts with some kind of incipient romance which is then interrupted by whatever the hand of fate wishes to deal out, the majority of the movie then covers the hero overcoming fate again and again, and finally the romance is successfully completed.

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Greek romances? Modern Greek romance novels? Does he name any authors?
Either way, plot structure is finely-honed science:
It has to do with the medium. You can’t look into the characters’ heads in movies as effectively as you can in writing, so naturally plot dominates. It’s just a question of holding the viewer’s interest.

Romance is the term used to describe a certain kind of early novelistic work. A number of Greeks wrote some of the best examples of the genre.

Fascinating. Do you know any of the authors’ names, or when they wrote?

If you search Google for “Greek romance,” there’s a wealth of information, not to mention links to a few Greek romances you can buy from Amazon.
Alternatively, you could read the Bakhtin essay referenced in my post.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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