Review by Choice Review
Birth-token baubles, locks of hair, body parts, scars, and eventually voice timbre enable lovers and other painfully separated familiars to recognize each other. "Recognition always brings about reversal," and it provides plot climaxes. Misidentifications and near misses fuel comedic situations of personal identity and social location. Montiglio (Johns Hopkins) introduces sudden and protracted identifications in epic (Cyclops, Penelope), tragedy (Oedipus, Alcestis), and comedy (Menandrian foundlings, thus Longus's). She examines the prominent cliches of recognition by lovers, parents, and meddlers; their manner (retarded by endless predicaments in Xenophon's Ephesiaka); Platonic epistemology (Heliodorus's Ethiopika); and unexpected inversions (Tatius's Leukippe). The Greek "romances" explore foils to reunion and predictably happy endings of painfully separated twosomes (Chariton's Callirhoe). Recognition scenes vary from Xenophon's clumsy via Longus's contrived to Heliodorus's convoluted finales. In the Latin novels, humiliatingly comic obstacles and contrived consequences foil and excite lust, but the discussion of this subject needs elaboration on Latin gender differences. Montiglio's insightful, thorough monograph dissects marginal fictions, the Latin Apollonius, King of Tyre, and Jewish and early Christian congeners. In these latter "love" narratives, divine providence theologizes secular folktale motifs. A brief epilogue gestures at Renaissance reprises of ancient erotic recognitions. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty. D. Lateiner Ohio Wesleyan University
Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.