A spring of ambrosial words: finding Pindar in Pindar
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This dissertation offers a literary approach to Pindar, his poetics, and his methods of commenting on the poetic art. It argues that Pindar consistently and self-consciously highlights himself in his poetics and that he actively shapes how his audience should receive and understand his poetry. This study challenges a current dominant scholarly approach to Pindar that prioritizes the practical performance context of Pindar’s poetry (an approach which frequently relegates the poet himself to the status of a technical writer of ritual scripts). In contrast, by focusing on the literary aspects of his programmatic techniques, this study makes the case for Pindar as a literary poet. The dissertation focuses on the language and function of Pindar’s invocations of the Muse, his poetic rivalry with and explicit commentary on previous poets, and his development of a complex metaphorical, metapoetic technique; this study also investigates the early reception of Pindar’s poetics and metapoetic techniques and locates the earliest critical reception of Pindar’s poetics in the comedies of Aristophanes. The first chapter considers the variety of ways in which Pindar invokes the Muses, and pursues a comparative reading of Pindar’s Muse invocations. The comparison brings out the range in function of the Muses in Pindar and also argues for a dynamic function of Pindar’s Muse invocations. Chapter 2 investigates Pindar’s poetic rivals and views Pindar in competition with the poets of the past of diverse genres: Homer, Hesiod, and Archilochus. The chapter argues that Pindar presents himself as rivaling these poets and that he engages in literary criticism to clarify his own poetic theory. The third chapter examines Pindar’s poetological imagery and suggests that Pindar’s metaphorical style constitutes a metapoetic technique. This chapter also brings out Pindar’s dynamic effect of layering multiple images for poetry. The final chapter reads Aristophanes’ parody of Pindar in the Birds as a reception of Pindar’s poetics. Through this parody, Aristophanes aims at positioning the comic poet in essential ways as a Pindaric poet. This reception highlights the continued relevance of what it means to be a “Pindaric poet” and signifies important aspects of the legacy of Pindar’s poetics.