“The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True History in the Genre of Science Fiction”, Interlitteraria 21/1, Belletristic Translation: a Means of Cultural-Spiritual Dialogue or a Tool of Acculturation? – Miscellanea, University of Tartu Press, Tartu 2016, 158-172.
Among the works of the ancient Greek satirist Lucian of Samosata, well-known for his scathing and obscene irony, there is the novel True History. In this work Lucian, being in an intense satirical mood, intended to undermine the values of the classical world. Through a continuous parade of wonderful events, beings and situations as a substitute for the realistic approach to reality, he parodies the scientific knowledge, creating a literary model for the subsequent writers. Without doubt, nowadays, Lucian’s large influence on the history of literature has been highlighted. What is missing is pointing out the specific characteristics that would lead to the placement of True History at the starting point of Science Fiction. We are going to highlight two of these features: first, the operation of “cognitive estrangement”, which aims at providing the reader with the perception of the difference between the convention and the truth, and second, the use of strange innovations (“novum”) that verify the value of Lucian’s work by connecting it to historicity.
Keywords: Lucian of Samosata, True History, satire, estrangement, “novum”, Science Fiction
It is used in the Reading List Syllabus: Love, Death & Destiny: The Ancient Novel (MA module) of Professor Meredith J. C. Warren in the Institute for Interdisciplinary Biblical Studies of Sheffield University (16.7.2017).
Morena Deriu, “How to Imagine a World Without Women: Hyperreality in Lucian’s True Histories,” Medea. Rivista di Studi Interculturali, V. 3, N. 1 (2017) p. 7 note 20.
Malamir SPASOV in “Interlitteraria. Vol. 21, No 1 (2016). Belletristic Translation: a Means of Cultural-Spiritual Dialogue or a Tool of Acculturation,” Colloquia Comparativa Litterarum Vol 3, No 1 (2017) 254-261(ISSN: 2367-7716) commented on it and wrote:
“The last but not least article in this Interlitteraria issue, “The Placement of Lucian’s Novel True History in the Genre of Science Fiction”, by Katelis Viglas reveals a peculiar translation of past to future strangeness. The ancient Greek Lucian of Samosata (b. About 125 CE) is considered as one of the earliest novelists in Western civilization, “well-known for his scathing and obscene irony”. There is a fictional narrative among his works, which is called True History, defined by experts as a genuine novel. There he parodies Homer’s fantastic tales, Thucydides’ History, also philosophers, political figures, etc. Lucian undermines the values of the classical world by satirizing the scientific knowledge and rational experience, thus “creating a literary model”. “Through a continuous parade of wonderful events, beings and situations as a substitute for the realistic approach to reality”, he actually appears to be a forerunner of modern literary themes like voyages in the outer space, extraterrestrial life, etc., nearly two millennia before Jules Verne; let alone his fictional characters, reminiscent of the creatures from paintings of Hieronymus Bosh, associating his works with twentieth century Absurdism. Lucian enormous impact on the history of literature is not uncharted fact, but this paper is filling a gap “pointing out the specific characteristics that would lead to the placement of True History at the starting point of Science Fiction” (p.158). A couple of these features are emphasized here: “first, the operation of ‘cognitive estrangement’, which aims at providing the reader with perception of the difference between convention and truth, and second, the use of strange innovations (‘novum’) that verify the value of Lucian’s work by connecting it to historicity”. Here I would interpret what I said previously, stating that synonymy is even more beautiful, as far as an ancient novel speaks to modern readers offering a novel perspective on future society. This is how interpretation works and this is substantial”.
Jana Grīnberga, HTONISKĀ PASAULE LŪKIĀNA TEKSTOS: ŽANRU IEZĪMES MĪTA FUNKCIONALITĀTES ASPEKTĀ, Latvijas Universitāte Humanitāro zinātņu fakultāte Klasiskās filoloģijas un antropoloģijas studiju nodaļa, RĪGA 2018, pp. 25, 97. (Master’s Thesis).
Erga Heller, “A Small Step for a Man, a New Memory for Humanity: Questing the Historic Documentation in Doctor Who” צעד קטן לאדם זיכרון חדש לאנושות לשאלת התיעוד ההיסטורי בסדרת הטלוויזיה דוקטור הו Slil – Online Journal for History, Film and Television, Issue 13, Winter 2018, סליל – כתב עת להיסטוריה, קולנוע וטלוויזיה גיליון 13, חורף 2018, עמ’ 30-45, 2018.
Sharouq Almatrouk, “Genre, Generation, and Gender: Margaret Cavendish’s The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World & Lucian of Samosata’s True History”, University of Reading – 2019.
Alexander I. Stingl, Care, Power, Information: For the Love of BluesCollarship in the Age of Digital Culture, Bioeconomy, and (Post-)Trumpism, Routledge, New York 2020, 374.