GREEK LYRIC IMAGERY: PROBLEMS OF INTERPRETATION

W. J. Henderson

Abstract


1. Introduction
Any study of the imagery in ancient Greek lyric poetry is faced with a number of
problems ranging from difficult to insurmountable. These problems arise mainly from
the fragmented state of both the lyric texts themselves and the ancient responses to the
imagery preserved for us in the testimonia. However, this state of the primary material
should not deter us from attempting controlled analysis of this important aspect of
ancient Greek poetry (as it is of all poetry). Latacz has identified an uncertainty, an
open-endedness in studies on Greek lyric. "Wir arbeiten also im Grunde mit
Hypothesen" (1986:39). There is a natural reluctance to offer lyric theory. "Wie
frtihgriechische Lyrik konstituiert und als System strukturiert ist, wie sie im Einzelfall
entsteht, wie sie 'funktioniert' hat, wodurch und wie sie wirken wollte und gewirkt
hat-, diese (synchroniese) Analyse hat die Lyrikforschung bisher allenfalls
ansatzweise in den Blick genommen; eine Poetik der frtihgriechischen Lyrik (ebenso
iibrigens wie des Epos) steht noch aus" (1986:42). In spite of these obstacles,
interpretation is required, even if it is to be characterised by "legitimer Subjektivitat"
(1986:37). Although it is impossible to recreate the impact of the imagery on the
contemporary (or "target") Greek audiences, a first, tentative step can be taken
towards the formulation of some kind of theory of reception by analysing the way in
which the ancient writers represented in the surviving testimonia dealt with images in
the lyric (i.e. melic) poetry of ancient Greece.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7445/43-0-178

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