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Political Fiction, Ancient and Modern (Panel Highlight)

The Lionel Trilling Seminar

March 7, 2016

Robert Alter presented the next installment of the Lionel Trilling Seminar on March 7, 2016. Herbert Marks and Michael Wood served as respondents.

The David story and Stendhal's Charterhouse of Parma, the first narrative very early and the other relatively late in the Western literary tradition, are deeply instructive instances of how the vehicle of fiction can provide insights into the realm of politics. Each in its own way shows the role individual character plays in the gaining and maintaining of power and how the exercise of power affects or distorts character. The biblical story is compellingly grave, Stendhal's novel satiric and sometimes comic, but both manifest an unblinking vision of man as a political animal.