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Studies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song, Vol. 4
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Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry foregrounds innovative approaches to the question of genre, what it means, and how to think about it for ancient Greek poetry and performance. Embracing multiple definitions of genre and lyric, the volume pushes beyond current dominant trends within the field of Classics to engage with a variety of other disciplines, theories, and models. Eleven papers by leading scholars of ancient Greek culture cover a wide range of media, from Sappho’s songs to elegiac inscriptions to classical tragedy. Collectively, they develop a more holistic understanding of the concept of lyric genre, its relevance to the study of ancient texts, and its relation to subsequent ideas about lyric.
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Abstract

This paper offers a new reading of Ode 16, suggesting that the poem does not track Apollo’s own Delphic homecoming but rather offers a sequence of generically distinct songs, all sung in honor of Apollo and all tied to discrete locations. An overreliance on Alcaeus fr. 307c as a paradigm for Ode 16 has led to an entrenched assumption that the poem was performed for Dionysus at Delphi by a chorus awaiting Apollo’s return from the Hyperboreans. My paper returns to an older theory that the location of Ode 16’s performance was Athens in order to propose a new specific ritual occasion, the Athenian Thargelia. The Athenian context of the Thargelia makes greater sense of Bacchylides’ appropriation of Sophocles’ Trachiniae. It also allows us to see the poem as a deliberate response to tragedy’s form of generic hybridity and as a vehicle for exporting the genre of tragedy itself beyond the borders of Athens.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
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Abstract

My discussion explores the coincidence between catalogues and choruses in the early poetic repertoire, observing how choral ensembles regularly perform lists in both hexameter and lyric sources. Drawing on representations of choruses in archaic and early classical texts and vase imagery, I suggest that this association may in large part depend on the morphology common to both phenomena; continuities exist in the makeup of the group, the interactions between its different members, its organization, formations, and movements through space. Close readings of passages from the Iliad, Bacchylides and Corinna more narrowly demonstrate the exchanges that go on between the two different performative traditions: while the diction, structure and thematics of hexameter catalogues indicate their affinity with and even derivation from publicly staged choral song and dance, the inventories embedded in lyric compositions incorporate stylistic conventions more native to hexameter poetry. Rather than assuming that the choral poets are the sole borrowers here, I propose a more complex and two-way trajectory between the genres, reflective of the fluidity and boundary-crossing between the different modes of performance.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
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Abstract

This paper explores the relationship between elegy and mourning by offering a new interpretation of the elegiac poem inscribed into the face of a massive archaic funerary monument from Ambracia. My starting point is the inherently disjunctive structure of the elegiac couplet, which formalizes the act of mourning attributed to the poem’s first-person voice—a voice that simultaneously points towards the deceased and laments their absence. This structure of mourning, in turn, permeates the configuration of the monument, including the carving of its blocks and the layout of the inscription across its surface. Where the poem is sometimes understood as a script or record of a prior performance, I argue that, for a viewer who reads the poem as a function of the monument, the first-person mourning voice is that of the monument itself. The viewer who confronts this mourning monument comes to empathize with it both physically and emotionally, using the structure of mourning to give emotional meaning to their own material and aesthetic experience of the monument. Because the monument expresses the grief of the entire city, it works towards transforming the viewer not simply into mourner but into citizen—a process that takes place at each step through the structure inherent in the elegiac couplet.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
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Abstract

This paper examines how nondramatic lyric genres were evoked, appropriated, and combined within fifth-century Athenian tragedy. I show how transitions from one song type to another within a tragedy could guide the audience’s reception of the dramatic action and help to shape the narrative arc of the play. The merging of multiple lyric genres within one choral song also demonstrates how broad the generic scope of tragedy could be, and how that breadth could be exploited in performance. I argue that, contrary to the myth of tragedy’s generic purity, which we see most clearly in Plato’s Laws, tragedy was by its very nature a hybrid or “super” genre, gathering together multiple song types within its choral odes.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
Author:

Abstract

The songs attributed to Sappho, dating from around 600 BCE, reveal a wide variety of roles played by the woman who is dramatized as the speaker in these songs—as also by those who are shown interacting with her. It is argued that the identity of this woman, as projected in acts of performance, cannot be reduced to some single historical person whose own life and times were supposedly being put on record by the first-person pronoun “I” of Sappho’s songs. Rather, the poetics of Sappho were fueled by her poetic personality—or, to say it more precisely, by her choral personality. In terms of this argument, the primary traditional medium for performing the songs of Sappho was the chorus, that is, an ensemble of singers/dancers. Such a chorus, as an instrument of mimesis, could reenact the personality of Sappho, which included personae that highlighted such roles as sister, lover, priestess. And these roles were reenacted and kept on being reenacted by way of choral singing and dancing performed on seasonally recurring festive occasions by the girls and the women of the island of Lesbos.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
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Abstract

This chapter argues that affect, conceived as a circulation of bodily intensities between subject and object, can help us rematerialize the notion of genre in the study of archaic Greek lyric. Iambos constitutes a privileged case study, as it aligns its own slippery poetic stance with sadomasochistic thrills, a shattering of corporeality, which, in pushing the limits of feeling, places it at the core of generic discourse. The readings explore what can be called iambos’ powers of horror as they are expressed by the textures of images and sounds in Archilochus and Hipponax, and in their ancient reception. The way the iambic “you” (both target and audience) trespasses the discursive frame corresponds to the in-between-ness of affect but also to iambos’ masochistic proclivity, its disruption and expansion of corporeality through forms of aestheticized abjection, which, in Deleuzian terms, allow the body to “to escape from itself.” Heeding the shivers, prickles, and spasms materialized in iambic form, we are invited to reconsider genre as a genuinely aesthetic category, a matter of the intensities that pass between text and recipients, turning form into bodily and psychic engagement.

Open Access
In: Genre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models