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Alciphron: The Erotic Letters in the Spotlight

  • Marquis, Émeline
Publication Date
Jan 30, 2023
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Traditionally, Alciphron’s work is divided into four of letters, according to the social status of the letter writers and their letters of fishermen, of farmers, of parasites and of courtesans. It is not surprising that the letters of courtesans mainly deal with erotic themes, and this is why ancient editors like Stephan Bergler and Ernst Eduard Seiler did describe the fourth type of letters as amatoriae, a category larger than the usual title meretriciae. However, it is less evident for the reader that eros also plays a central role in the other three books of letters. Indeed, nine letters in each of these three books are concerned with topics which one can call ‘erotic’ in a broad sense.It is this importance of erotic letters in the whole work of Alciphron (and not only in the letters of courtesans) that I investigate in this chapter: their nature, their form as well as their status in the collection. After delimiting my corpus of study, I examine the main features of these letters: who writes, to whom, in which form, for what reason and with what arguments? Are there similarities among these erotic letters in terms of form and content, or are they remarkable mainly for their artful poikilia? Lastly, I focus on the composition of Alciphron’s work and insist on the careful organisation of the erotic letters and on the numerous echoes and parallels that the reader detects within and among the books.

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