Athens and Oran: Heroisms in two plagues

In Lee Trepanier (ed.), Diseases, Disasters, and Political Theory (forthcoming)
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In the autumn of 430 BCE, the city of Athens was devastated by a plague, one chronicled by both the Athenian historian Thucydides and the Roman poet Lucretius. Albert Camus’ notebooks and novel The Plague (La peste) clearly show his interest in the plague of Athens and several scholars have detected comparisons between its narrator, Dr. Rieux, and the historian Thucydides. But a careful examination of what Rieux actually says about the plague of Athens complicates matters and suggests that Camus in some sense rejects accounts of the plague of Athens as a model for his novel. Such a rejection seems confirmed by the novel’s identification of Joseph Grand as its hero, an example of decidedly non-Periclean virtue. I argue that although one can find comparisons within the Plague between Athens and Oran, more pronounced are their contrasts.
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Archival date: 2021-07-20
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