literary criticism in antiquity

Donald Russell

in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Classics

Published online March 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780199381135 | DOI:

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1. The arts of formal speech played a great part in ancient life, so that it was natural that vocabularies and conceptual frameworks should be developed for the purposes of evaluation, speculation about the nature and role of poetry, and practical advice for successful composition, especially in oratory. In the resulting body of doctrine, this last element—which is the contribution of *rhetoric—is dominant, and it is this which seems the most striking difference between Graeco-Roman ‘criticism’ and most modern analogues.2. The first evidences we have of reflection on these subjects are in the early poets. *Homer and *Hesiod speak of their art as a gift of the *Muses, who inspire the poet, know all things, and can tell false tales as well as true (Il. 2. 484–92; Od. 8. 479 ff.; Hes. Theog. 1–104). *Pindar too called himself the ‘prophet’—i.e. ‘spokesman’—of the Muses (fr. 137 Snell–Maehler), and was proud to think of his ‘wisdom’ as the product of natural endowment, not of teachable technique, which was for lesser mortals (Ol.

Article.  2193 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature ; Classical Reception

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