The Anecdote: Capturing an Experience

Paul A. Fleming, German Studies/Comparative Literature, recounts an old story that’s been told and retold many times. It comes from Herodotus’ Histories, an account of the Egyptian King Psammetichus’ capture by the Persians. As part of the king’s humiliation, the Persians parade his family in front of him—first his daughter as a slave and then his son on his way to execution. While everyone else around him wails, King Psammetichus shows no emotion until a beggared old drinking buddy passes, upon which he begins to weep and lament.

“The question that has perplexed and engaged so many,” says Fleming, “is why does he weep when he weeps?”

 It’s one of the crucial stories that Fleming uses in a new book in progress about the use of the anecdote as a mode of thought. He describes it as “thinking in stories.”

Continue reading this article on the Cornell Research website.

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		 Paul Fleming