Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus

Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus


By (author) Stephen Halliwell


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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 432 pages
  • Dimensions: 144mm x 220mm x 26mm | 662g
  • Publication date: 1 March 2012
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199570566
  • ISBN 13: 9780199570560
  • Illustrations note: black & white illustrations
  • Sales rank: 686,415

Product description

As well as producing one of the finest of all poetic traditions, ancient Greek culture produced a major tradition of poetic theory and criticism. Halliwell's volume offers a series of detailed and challenging interpretations of some of the defining authors and texts in the history of ancient Greek poetics: the Homeric epics, Aristophanes' Frogs, Plato's Republic, Aristotle's Poetics, Gorgias's Helen, Isocrates' treatises, Philodemus' On Poems, and Longinus' On the Sublime. The volume's fundamental concern is with how the Greeks conceptualized the experience of poetry and debated the values of that experience. The book's organizing theme is a recurrent Greek dialectic between ideas of poetry as, on the one hand, a powerfully enthralling experience in its own right (a kind of 'ecstasy') and, on the other, a medium for the expression of truths which can exercise lasting influence on its audiences' views of the world. Citing a wide range of modern scholarship, and making frequent connections with later periods of literary theory and aesthetics, Halliwell questions many orthodoxies and received opinions about the texts analysed. The resulting perspective casts new light on ways in which the Greeks attempted to make sense of the psychology of poetic experience - including the roles of emotion, ethics, imagination, and knowledge - in the life of their culture.

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Author information

Stephen Halliwell is Professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. He taught previously at the universities of Oxford, London, Cambridge, and Birmingham, and has held visiting professorships in Belgium, Canada, Italy, and the USA. He has published extensively on Greek literature, philosophy, and culture, as well as on the influence of Greek texts in the later history of ideas. His last two books both won international prizes: Greek Laughter: A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity was awarded the Criticos Prize for 2008; The Aesthetics of Mimesis: Ancient Texts and Modern Problems (2002) won the Premio Europeo d'Estetica in 2008, and has been translated into Italian.

Review quote

an engaging study of the interplay between Greek views of poetry as a source of ecstacy and as a medium for truth and human values. S.E. Goins, CHOICE [a] deeply learned collection of essays ... a book so rich in innovative readings of Greek literary theory Llewelyn Morgan, Times Literary Supplement thoughtful and often innovative approaches ... I found his arguments persuasive and his scholarship very impressive... a consistently useful guide through the vast ocean of scholarship on this important area Stephen Chambers, Journal of Classics Teaching is a very rewarding book, that promises to be influential in modelling a more open and nuanced approach to ancient literary criticism and textual interpretation than the more common 'dogmatic' approach. Elizabeth Belfiore, Hermathena no. 191 [a] probing overview of the Greek critical tradition... add[s] complexity and nuance to longstanding concerns...a subtle and humane defense of poetry... Halliwells arguments [are] closely reasoned, comprehensively informed and clear. Andrew Ford, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews important new book ... very rich and original ... subtle, precise, and judicious in its boldness. Piero Boitani, Il sole 24 Ore This book represents criticism at its best. Halliwell exhibits a command of all the relevant scholarship, examines each word or phrase in the Greek texts with philological rigor, and is cautious and undogmatic in his interpretations. ... he writes clearly and elegantly, and the book is a pleasure to read. David Konstan, Gnomon

Table of contents

PREFACE ; NOTE TO THE READER ; 1. Setting the Scene: Questions of Poetic Value in Greek Culture ; 2. Is there a Poetics in Homer? ; 3. Aristophanes Frogs and the Failure of Criticism ; 4. To Banish or not to Banish? Plato's Unanswered Question about Poetry ; 5. Aristotle and the Experience of Tragic Emotion ; 6. Poetry in the Light of Prose: Gorgias, Isocrates, Philodemus ; 7. The Mind's Infinity: Longinus and the Psychology of the Sublime ; BIBLIOGRAPHY ; INDEX LOCORUM ; INDEX OF GREEK TERMS ; GENERAL INDEX