Lyric Poetry

Andrea Capra

in The Oxford Handbook of Hellenic Studies

Published in print August 2009 | ISBN: 9780199286140
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Lyric Poetry

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Poetry
  • Ancient Greek History



This article emphasizes the importance of context, and of what is lost, when people approach the study of lyric poetry: even the one complete poem by Sappho turns out to be a fragment, because people can no longer hear the tune to which it was sung, because they do not know for whom she was singing. It suggests that people need to rethink quite radically ancient processes of identification between poets, performers, and audiences; while, at the same time, the identification with the Greeks can be harnessed to understand their literature, and ourselves. For example, the dominance of the lyric poet-scholars in nineteenth-century Italian culture explains, in part, the current flourishing of Italian scholarship on ancient Greek lyric.

Keywords: lyric poetry; Sappho; Greek lyric; Greek literature; Italian culture

Article.  6600 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Poetry ; Ancient Greek History

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