GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Mini doc over Brittany Nicole Cox, antiquarian horologist


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: My Favorite Thing is Monsters Vol. 1

My Favorite Thing Is MonstersMy Favorite Thing Is Monsters by Emil Ferris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Love the incorporation of Mythology here. It feels like it’s acknowledging myth as the original source of horror.

A fascinating work — a GABBLER RECOMMENDS.

View all my reviews

BookTuber Tuesday – House of Leaves




Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

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Read THE AUTOMATION for free:

Download the PDF for THE AUTOMATION here.


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: A Wrinkle in Time teaser trailer

EPIC CATALOG: Stories that work best in book format

Continue this list–tell us what we’ve missed in the comments below.

#TBT – Charlie bit me

That time we learned Charlie was a biter. 2007.

#TBT – iPod Nano Ad ft. Feist

That time we were taught how to count in a commercial. 2007.

What the gods specifically desire from mortals via sacrifice is “honor, prerogatives, and gratitude.”

‘What the gods specifically desire from mortals via sacrifice is “honor, prerogatives, and gratitude.” Thus those priests and seers who attempt to bind the gods practice a perversion of religion, and in his Laws Plato specifies the death penalty as the punishment for an mantis who attempts to harm someone through spells and incantations. Plato’s formulation is problematic, however, because his religious beliefs were not necessarily those of the average Greek, or even Athenian, and his distinction between religion and magic is surely far more narrow than the popular one, insofar as most Greeks even thought about the distinction at all.

In actual experience, the distinction between magic and religion is fluid, and both can coexist within the same body of ritual acts. Both religion and magic rely on prayer, sacrifice, and incantation to achieve their ends. But whereas religious practices tend to be under control of the polis, magical practices are beyond public control and therefore are perceived as being dangerous. Yet the difference between magic and religion is also one of context and social approval. Magic is activity meant to achieve the goals of prevailing religion in ways disapproved of by that religion. Thus both magic and religion are goal-oriented, but the relationship of each to the supernatural, at least in Greek eyes, was different.’

– Michael Attyah Flower, The Seer in Ancient Greece 

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: What happens when literary novelists experiment with science fiction by Laura Miller

“Dystopian fiction is animated by fear, but postapocalyptic stories almost always harbor a kernel of desire. Dystopia is a form of criticism: It sounds a klaxon, urging society to course-correct before it’s too late. But the postapocalyptic narrative is fatalistic and romantic. Civilization’s coup de grace might come, as 20th-century science-fiction novelists anticipated, in the form of nuclear war, or—today’s preference—as a pandemic or devastating climate change. The carnage will certainly be epic. But afterward comes the possibility of a return to what really matters and a clean slate on which to draw society anew. Even at their most seemingly nihilistic, postapocalyptic scenarios invoke the persistent, cherished American myth of the frontier, that place where a man can prove himself through hard work and violence, free from the rules, hassles, and compromises imposed by civilization.

Despite their varying ages, races, and genders, this is the basic temperament of all the characters in Station Eleven: a propensity toward melancholic, vaguely paralyzed reveries that invokes the type of personality you’d expect to find in someone who writes literary fiction. These people are, when you get right down to it, all pretty much the same person. So much for the promise that literary writers will bring something more than stock figures to their science-fiction scenarios; Mandel’s rueful musers are just a different kind of stock figure.

Science fiction writers and readers have long resented incursions like these into their territory, especially when they come, as such novels often do, with a disavowal of the genre itself. (Mandel insisted that she didn’t consider Station Eleven to be science fiction.) And besides, science fiction has its own bravura stylists, writers such as William Gibson, and psychologically acute humanists, such as Karen Joy Fowler. Gibson’s Neuromancer is the most evident influence on Void Star, the new novel by Zachary Mason, author of The Lost Books of the Odyssey, a well-received 2007 riff on Homer’s epic. Mason is a computer scientist (the novel’s title is a reference to the C++ programming language), and Void Star attempts the difficult feat of rendering the abstract ecstasies of mathematics in artfully oblique sentences: “The glyphs are intricate, radiant with significance that she can’t quite articulate. Like rain, she thinks, on a clear day, seen over miles of ocean. Like ideograms distended in a black hole’s gravity.”

Void Star comes the closest of all these recent examples to the classic definition of hard science fiction: idea- rather than character-driven and devoted to extrapolating from the technology we now employ to whatever tech will define our future. The novel has many small, astute predictions; Irina observes that with the advent of self-driving cars, people are even more inclined to treat their vehicles like bedrooms, places to get dressed and apply makeup, “anonymity substituting for privacy.” But Mason’s characters, too, are uncompelling compared to his plot, the waferlike concoctions of technothriller convenience, their superpowers perfunctorily deepened with a side serving of regret.

Science fiction has always promised its readers fictional wonders they can’t get in other genres, stories in which the stakes are high and the ideas are heady. What’s surprising is not that literary novelists are increasingly taking up science fiction’s tools, but that more of them didn’t try it sooner. Now, as the present crumbles away into a future that evolves more quickly than most of us can track, it seems impossible to write about contemporary life without writing science fiction. But the secret to doing it well doesn’t lie in suspenseful chase scenes, weighty messages or mind-blowing existential puzzles. That stuff can be fun, but it can also feel pretty thin without something that’s supposed to be a specialty of literary novelists: the fullest appreciation of humanity in its infinite variety and intricacy. Do justice to that, and the wonders will take care of themselves.”



GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Literary “Community” by Daniel Green

‘These questions for me are prompted in part by a current literary culture that seems devoted to creating an impression of great collegiality among writers. The most immediate and influential form of literary criticism–book reviewing–is dominated by novelists and poets, some of whom are also perceptive critics but many of whom have been assigned to write reviews under the apparent assumption that fiction writers are best situated to judge other fiction, poets other poetry. This assumption is dubious at best, but the primary effect of this practice is that most reviews dispense abundant praise, often long on superlatives and short on real analysis.

In addition, almost all books now come heavily “blurbed” by other writers, who often seem determined to outdo each other in the rhetorical excess with which they praise their fellow authors. The literary corners of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook liberally engage in various digital versions of handclapping for writers especially admired and frequently feature explicit appeals to “community” among writers, as if literature was a civic organization, or a team sport in which one pledges one’s mutual support for teammates. Perhaps it is in this context that we can understand the controversy over “negative reviews”: Some writers, and many critics, fail to fully join the team, venturing to question a team member’s accomplishment and disrupting group camaraderie.

In surveying literary history, it is hard to identify another period in which serious writers expected to be, or indicated any desire to be, part of a literary community. Paris after World War I is often discussed as the setting for a gathering of like-minded modernists, but Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast ought to be evidence enough that whatever friendships that might have formed at this time were laced with barely suppressed resentment and condescension, examples of writers suffering other writers. It seems to me that the push for “community” among writers is a direct function of the “program era” in American literature, the relocation of literary life to the academy, where it is administered in creative writing programs, where other writers are indeed colleagues, and where the wheels driving publication and recognition are greased by the spread of literary magazines sponsored by creative writing programs themselves and the substitution of tenure for commercial success. Under these circumstances, it becomes much easier to think of other writers as fellow members of a community (the community of creative writing teachers and students) rather than rivals, although also much easier as well to write safe but duly crafted, convention-approved fiction and poetry rather than challenge the hegemony of craft and convention by following inspiration where it leads.

“Literary citizenship” is a concept that many writers apparently take quite seriously, as it has evolved from a metaphorical notion that writers should advocate on behalf of literature generally to a quasi-literal requirement that they be good citizens in the “literary community” at large, whose well-being they are expected to consider.

What about the apostate, the writer who resists the call to literary citizenship, either through obstinacy or through a sincere belief that the writer’s job is to write, not to network? Although May frequently insists that the writer’s first responsibility is indeed to his/her own writing, those who might deny the value of literary citizenship when it is made into a de facto requirement of living a “writing life” would surely provoke resentment for not carrying his/her weight in propping up the remaining structures that make a literary life still marginally possible. More importantly, what about the true literary apostate, who violates community norms, who produces work even the best literary citizens might have trouble celebrating, or even understanding? What if the demand for literary citizenship had been made of Samuel Beckett or William S. Burroughs (or even a more conventional curmudgeonly type such as, say, Philip Larkin)?’


GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Midnight Madness: Franz Kafka’s “Investigations of a Dog: And Other Creatures” By Nathan Scott McNamara

‘FRANZ KAFKA NEVER left home. Outside of a year in Berlin and a stay at a sanatorium near Vienna before his death, he lived in the same part of Prague — mostly at his parent’s house — for all 40 years of his life, worked as a clerk at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute, and never married.

Kafka’s inertia, a sort of isolation from the larger world, was central to his obsessive and anxiety-fueled stories. He defended his solitude and curated his deranged state. He even wrote in the middle of the night, while the rest of Prague slept. In 1912, in a letter to Felice Bauer, Kafka explained that each day he was at the office from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then ate lunch, then slept (“usually only attempts…”) until 7:30 p.m. Then after 10 minutes of naked exercise in front of the open window, he usually took an hour-long walk with his friend Max Brod, and finally had dinner with his family.

Wrapped up in Kafka’s genius is his mental and physical frailty, his provinciality, and his single-minded fixations. Rather than the sense of a Herculean writer, we’re drawn in by the sense of a man who’s being destroyed by the grueling realities of modern living. Kafka didn’t have the time to write, but he still did. A writer and full-fledged participant in industrialized society, Kafka wasn’t healthy, and he died of tuberculosis at 40.’


#TBT – Daft Hands

That time the most interesting video was just a pair of hands. 2007.

BookTuber Tuesday – Derrida

Recommend a BookTuber video in the comments and it could make our Tuesday post!

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

From “The Structural Study of Myth” by Claude Lévi-Strauss

“Of all the chapters of religious anthropology probably none has tarried to the same extent as studies in the field of mythology. From a theoretical point of view the situation remains very much the same as it was fifty years ago, namely, a picture of chaos. Myths are still widely interpreted in conflicting ways: collective dreams, the outcome of a kind of esthetic play, the foundation of ritual…. Mythological figures are considered as personified abstractions, divinized heroes or decayed gods. Whatever the hypothesis, the choice amounts to reducing mythology either to an idle play or to a coarse kind of speculation.

Mythology confronts the student with a situation which at first sight could be looked upon as contradictory. On the one hand, it would seem that in the course of a myth anything is likely to happen. There is no logic, no continuity. Any characteristic can be attributed to any subject; every conceivable relation can be met. With myth, everything becomes possible. But on the other hand, this apparent arbitrariness is belied by the astounding similarity between myths collected in widely different regions. Therefore the problem: if the content of a myth is contingent, how are we going to explain that throughout the world myths do resemble one another so much?

A remark can be introduced at this point which will help to show the singularity of myth among other linguistic phenomena. Myth is the part of language where the formula traduttore, tradittore reaches its lowest truth-value. From that point of view it should be put in the whole gamut of linguistic expressions at the end opposite to that of poetry, in spite of all the claims which have been made to prove the contrary. Poetry is a kind of speech which cannot be translated except at the cost of serious distortions; whereas the mythical value of the myth remains preserved, even through the worst translation. Whatever our ignorance of the language and the culture of the people where it originated, a myth is still felt as a myth by any reader through- out the world. Its substance does not lie in its style, its original music, or its syntax, but in the story which it tells. It is language, functioning on an especially high level where meaning succeeds practically at “taking off” from the linguistic ground on which it keeps on rolling.

Prevalent attempts to explain alleged differences between the so-called “primitive” mind and scientific thought have resorted to qualitative differences between the working processes of the mind in both cases while assuming that the objects to which they were applying themselves remained very much the same. If our interpretation is correct, we are led toward a completely different view, namely, that the kind of logic which is used by mythical thought is as rigorous as that of modern science, and that the difference lies not in the quality of the intellectual process, but in the nature of the things to which it is applied. This is well in agreement with the situation known to prevail in the field of technology: what makes a steel ax superior to a stone one is not that the first one is better made than the second. They are equally well made, but steel is a different thing than stone. In the same way we may be able to show that the same logical processes are put to use in myth as in science, and that man has always been thinking equally well; the improvement lies, not in an alleged progress of man’s conscience, but in the discovery of new things to which it may apply its unchangeable abilities.”


“The Structural Study of Myth” by Claude Lévi-Strauss

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: Get Gaiman?: PolyMorpheus Perversity in Works by and about Neil Gaiman by Clay Smith

Or, how Neil Gaiman is a myth: 

‘While the criticism that I cited at the beginning of my essay promotes Gaiman over the gaming that occurs in/with/through texts, it does provide us with an effective means for observing how polyMorpheus perversity maintains Gaiman’s author(ity). As indicated above, one of the primary causes of this perversity is the attribution by critics of the works produced under the name “Neil Gaiman” to a single [and singular] authorial source. Often these critics illustrate their claims about Gaiman’s author(ity) by including panels from his graphic novels (most often from the Sandman series). In doing so, these critics deny the existence of the authors/others (e.g. inkers, colorists, editors) involved in the production of those panels and the series in which they appear; instead these critics promote the textuality that they see in these panels as a product of Gaiman’s author(ity), thereby further obscuring Gaiman’s authors/others and promoting polyMorpheus perversity.

Attention to these authors/others within Gaiman’s work(s) reveals the extensive promotion and production of Gaiman’s exclusive author(ity). Interviews with artists like Kelley Jones describe how Gaiman’s storylines enable his own creativity in ways that he would not realize otherwise. To illustrate his claims, Jones notes how he added intricate details to his visual designs of Hell’s Gate and other referential images (e.g., dreams attributed to historical persons like El Cid and Columbus) to his work on the Sandman series (Bender 102). He also notes that he adopted previous artistic styles (e.g., those characterizing 19th c. Japanese woodcuts and Ancient Egyptian tomb paintings as well as the works of Audrey Beardsley and August Doré) to accentuate the diversity of cultural references in his work for Seasons of Mist. While none of these visual elements or styles appear explicitly in Gaiman’s verbal narrative for this series, they do coexist with(in) the published version of these Sandman stories through Jones’s illustrations. However, they do so only because Gaiman author(ize)s them: initially by sketching the plotline which they illustrate, then by placing his authorial approval on them – essentially (re)authoring them as part of his own incorporative production. In other words, Jones’s elements remain invisible until readers are told that they may see them and even that they exist. The work of authors/others within the body of Gaiman’s work(s) exist only after they have been (re)articulated by Gaiman…

This processing of authors/others into an author(ized/ing) product illustrates a central aspect of Gaiman’s strategy to promote his author(ity). Here the process reveals its complexity by first having Gaiman (re)articulate the product, then by having Jones echo that reauthorization in his interview, then by having Bender (re)authorize it (visually within a grayed text box thereby formally separating it from the main-text/interview body) so that readers can see that the inspirational intersection of Gaiman’s and Jones’s articulations of the Sandman story is actually engendered exclusively through Gaiman’s author(ity). Gaiman’s approval of the storyboards did not include such detail or stylistics; such detail and stylistics emerged only after/through Gaiman’s approval within the space that he had originally created and actively controls. In other words, Jones would not have been able to create the visual analogs of (re)articulation and referentiality in his panels without Gaiman’s originary and continuous (re)authorization. As this example illustrates, Jones’s (re)articulation is actually an iteration of Gaiman’s author(ity). Such foreclosure of textuality defines a key aspect of polyMorpheus perversity by revealing how the apparent openings for/of textual free play are foreclosed by Gaiman’s author(ity). Readers come to see textuality only by forgetting the authors/others for the pleasure of knowing Gaiman’s author(ity).

…Again, Gaiman appears as the controlling nexus from which artistic creativity and familial fulfillment can and do emerge – a mythic empowerment of Gaiman’s author(ity). According to these testaments, Gaiman’s guiding hand is everywhere, whether we see it or not. And if we do see it, we see yet another example of the polyMorpheus perversity that we must come to know through such openings.

Further examples of the extent of Gaiman’s authority occur in the anthology The Sandman: Book of Dreams (1996). There various authors intersect, invoke, and interject Gaiman’s Sandman storyline within their own works, but only under Gaiman’s literal and figurative author(ity). Because Gaiman occupies a paratextual role in this collection, The Sandman: Book of Dreams illustrates how pervasive his author(ity) is: while he appears only as a nominal identity within this collection, his author(ity) manifests itself throughout the entire work in implicit and explicit ways; in doing so, Gaiman appears as a virtually anonymous author(ity) validating each of the anthology’s authors and her/his work.

While Gaiman’s name appears in only four places, those places serve to (re)author those works that appear in this collection: his name appears (1) on the cover as the editor (along with an otherwise silent Ed Kramer), (2) at the anthology’s end as part of advertising for his other works, (3) a brief bio note, and (4) at the anthology’s beginning as one of the creators of Sandman characters (Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg are also listed). This last appearance informs his author(ity) in this anthology: the formal declaration of genesis follows the legal declaration of DC Comics’ trademark ownership of the “Sandman and all related characters, slogans, and indicia” and precedes the statement: “The Authors assert the moral right to be identified as the authors in this work.” Yet this disclosure of textuality appears virtually invisible: buried so that only a very few readers may ever find it. However, Gaiman’s nominal primacy overshadows the presence of any authors/others.

While such manipulation remains relatively hidden, the hand of Gaiman’s author(ity) appears more explicitly throughout much of his work in the form of citations, commentary, paratextuality – in short, though his attributive incorporation of the bodies of other works within the body of his work(s). Throughout his work(s), Gaiman utilizes a constant rhetorical strategy that explicitly and implicitly cites/sites citationality within his works not as textual free play but as textual foreclosure. Most often these references appear in the form of direct and indirect quotes embedded within the body of his work, but they also assume other forms of reference to other authors and cultural events. Despite its presence in seemingly different formats (graphic novels, interviews, and webpages), this referentiality (re)articulates the same message: Gaiman is the vortex (one of his recurrent images) from which his unique narrativity exudes and from which most readers cannot (do not want to) escape.

While such promotion may not seem surprising given the commercialism of such sites, its blurring of the lines between product and producer(s) reflects Gaiman’s larger rhetorical strategy designed to privilege him as the author(ity) of all of his works. Moreover, those readers who get Gaiman’s gaming with such sites (the dimensions of his [and Wolfe’s] parodic walking tour book and its virtual presence) seem to approximate an intimacy with Gaiman’s manipulation (and thereby approximate an intimacy with Gaiman). However, such approximations are integral parts of Gaiman’s strategy as we have seen: they render those who believe in them as appendages for Gaiman to control. Again, the peripherals emerge only in relation to the center: the auteur over the authors/others.

Such exclusivity and denial of the text’s hybridity in favor of hierarchy and stasis run counter to the apparent inclusivity and alterity that Gaiman claims to promote in his texts and life as well as for which he is often celebrated. We can see how Gaiman manipulates that apparent textuality to achieve this delusion only if we keep our own relationship with textuality: we must maintain the polysemic over the author(ized); if we do otherwise, we too will become subject to Gaiman’s author(ity), and thereby become subject to its polyMorpheus perversity.’


[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

GABBLER RECOMMENDS: We’re All the Horsemen of the Apocalypse in New Doomsday Movies

Interestingly, despite our ever present doomsday fictions, the nature of the way we’ve portrayed the innumerable horsemen of the apocalypse has changed. In the past, the apocalypse was a single, cataclysmic event that could be stopped. From the machine armies of Terminator to the nuclear fallout in On the Beach, the apocalypse was always the result of a choice . But now, our end of the world stories tackle issues that are “broader and more diffuse,” which makes us “afraid but less able to point to a source of our fear,” Bures wrote.


See also: What we talk about when we talk about post-apocalyptic stories.

Mercury is drawing on The Automation for his next painting. He loved our use of the word “mercurial” so many f*cking times.

[“BLA and GB Gabbler” (really just a pen name – singular) are the Editor and Narrator behind THE AUTOMATION, vol. 1 of the Circo del Herrero series. They are on facebook, twitter, tumblr, goodreads, and Vulcan’s shit list.]

all yellowB&N | Amazon | Etc.

#TBT – Malk

That time things escalated too quickly on YouTube. 2009.

On the history of letters:

‘Addressing the symbolic and material functions of letters, this essay shows how a selection of their epistles served as gifts, thus conferring prestige on recipients in a society where social networking was largely defined by a cultural consensus. The sociological notion of cultural capital adopted here refers to the material and symbolic use of epistles as evidence of a person’s training in Greek παιδεία: its style of writing, discourse among powerful associates, and models of governance gleaned from its history and literature. Mastering these lessons qualified individuals as scholars, civic mediators, and patrons in a heritage of leadership stretching back to the pre-Roman era. This preparation did not always yield tangible benefits, but having this resource—especially in conjunction with holding political and economic authority—garnered one respect in a community defined by its accumulated cultural knowledge. A proficiency in παιδεία—as manifested in epistolary exchange—was evidence that one knew the rules of social interaction among elites. Individuals steeped in classical Greek studies held a profit of distinction that brought them immediate legitimacy when they interacted with persons of similar background. Thus, exhibiting this cultural capital facilitated the discourse between bishops and their correspondents.

In the eastern Roman Empire, where social standing often was based on one’s command of ancient Greek literature, individuals educated in the curriculum of παιδεία had been raised on classical Hellenic mores. Although the heritage of hellenismos (“being Greek”) had already come to be equated with “paganism” by the mid-300s, in their discourse with elite eastern Romans the Cappadocians continued to celebrate those aspects of παιδεία that represented “speaking” and “being civilized” in the Greek way. They did remain guarded, however, in proposing this education for Christian laity, who might not have sufficient discernment to dismiss its polytheistic theology and accounts of immoral behavior. One of the more salient ideals within this classical Greek heritage—rooted in the φιλία relationship—involved conferring prestige on an individual with the expectation that the recipient would reciprocate the act of honor. Presenting cultural capital in the form of epistles was not a financial transaction, but rather a reminder of mutual values that could potentially inform one’s policies. Gift exchange, in the form of sending and receiving letters, represented an exercise imbued with emotional and personal connection. To send a letter meant that one was presenting part of oneself. The nature of such a precious gift prompted the recipient to acknowledge its affective meaning and to act in the best interest of the giver. As masters of eloquent words (λόγοι), the Cappadocians asserted their erudition in a social setting based on honor and expectation… The model of ancient Greek gift-giving provided them a means by which publicly to assert the heritage of a pre-Christian Hellenism as a social and political force; it called attention to Christian participation in this practice; and it enabled them to mediate for individuals and communities under their social patronage.

Using exempla from the Iliad and the Odyssey established the writer’s command of the fundamental texts of the Greek literary heritage. And referring to motifs from venerated Attic writers underscored the writer’s affinity with an elite leadership that governed through the power of its words. Παιδεία required learning across a number of disciplines, including art, geography, mythology, and physiognomy, a comprehensive knowledge that distinguished its experts as refined and steeped in Hellenism. This education invited its recipients to display their erudition in multiple forms, ranging from textual references to visual representations on clothing and in material objects. Composing and sending epistles was only one way of signaling membership in this circle. But the epistolary medium was especially relevant because it applied Hellenic allusions and showed their relevance to current social and political circumstances. And it conveyed these sentiments in the form of a gift. The acceptability of the epistle, however, depended on high standards of writing. Not every letter was worthy of sending to a beneficiary.

To acquire gift status, an epistle had to have merit warranting that the recipient would value it and share it. Letters of great distinction were “small objets d’art, carefully articulated, circulated among a select group, collected, copied, and treasured.” Letters of premium quality “had to rise above the ordinary routine of life. There had to be a touch of elegance . . . brief and to the point, but also so fi nely crafted that the recipient would want to show it, rather read it, to his friends.” Individual honor derived from the publicized contents of the epistle, which made the recipient’s acquisition of the letter known to a greater populace, along with its message.

Letters from prominent scholars—set apart by their Hellenic education—would have been made known to the community. An individual’s collection of these written works, particularly if one wanted to appear as an eloquent Greek, enhanced one’s reputation.

…Although all epistles reflecting cultivation were to be valued, a certain gradation can be detected in their content, indicating that certain gifts carried more prestige than others. The number of literary references and their familiarity among scholars, for example, could aff ect the merits of an epistle. Inserting several uncommon classical allusions demonstrated the author’s high level of labor in composing the epistle by singling out distinct references. More obscure passages also indicated the addressee’s deeper knowledge of the ancients, as did couched metaphors, because they would have necessitated an ability to recognize them. An epistle containing a few famous phrases from Homer, for example, might present less status than one that included cryptic sayings from more esoteric sources. The latter would indicate an advanced level of παιδεία for author and addressee. It designated a person as part of a limited group endowed with the precious ability to comprehend the text. Receiving this kind of epistle would have trumpeted one’s comprehensive familiarity with the Greek literary heritage.

By emphasizing ancient Greek themes in their correspondence, the Cappadocian Fathers were reinforcing their access to a program of social and political influence in the east, one that they would not surrender to non-Christians. Through these gifts of eloquence, the bishops were coopting Hellenism, sans its pagan deities, for their own agenda.’

Nathan D. Howard “Gifts Bearing Greekness: Epistles as Cultural Capital in Fourth-Century Cappadocia.”