Download The Comedian as Critic: Greek Old Comedy and Poetics by Matthew Wright PDF

By Matthew Wright

The very best proof for the early improvement of literary feedback ahead of Plato and Aristotle comes from Athenian outdated Comedy. Playwrights equivalent to Eupolis, Cratinus, Aristophanes and others wrote quite a few comedies on literary issues, commented on their lonesome poetry and that in their opponents, and performed round with rules and theories from the modern highbrow scene. How do we utilize the proof of comedy? Why have been the comedian poets so preoccupied with questions of poetics? What standards emerge from comedy for the review of literature? What do the traditional comedians' jokes say approximately their very own literary tastes and people in their viewers? How do kinds of readers in antiquity assessment texts, and what are the similarities and changes among 'popular' and 'professional' literary feedback? Does Greek comedy have whatever critical to assert concerning the authors and texts it criticizes? How can the comedians be relating to the later literary-critical culture represented by way of Plato, Aristotle and next writers? This ebook makes an attempt to respond to those questions via reading comedy in its social and highbrow context, and through the use of methods from smooth literary concept to forged mild at the historic fabric.

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Extra resources for The Comedian as Critic: Greek Old Comedy and Poetics

Example text

First of all, there is the idea that literature is ‘useful’ to society: I suggest that the comedians are subjecting this idea to scrutiny, and that any claims to the effect that comedy itself is ‘useful’ may be read ironically. Secondly, there is ‘cleverness’, a word which is ostensibly presented as a criterion for judging literary excellence, but which turns out to be a problematic and inherently ambivalent quality. 5. The social utility of literature We have already mentioned Dicaeopolis’ big speech in Acharnians, in which he argues that comedy is useful in a political or moral sense (‘trugôidia too understands what is right’).

99 All the same, the comedians’ attitude to Euripides, though it is certainly satirical, cannot be described as unreservedly hostile; and (as we have already noted) some of Aristophanes’ contemporaries saw him as an admirer or imitator of Euripides rather than a hostile critic. It is difficult to know whether or not any occurrence of the word ‘clever’ in comedy (or elsewhere) is meant to be taken at face value. When, for instance, Phrynichus, in the course of what seems to be a ritual blessing (makarismos), describes Sophocles as ‘a fortunate man and a clever one’ ( , Muses fr.

It seems to me that the text invites multiple readings: it is deliberately indeterminate. This is not the same as saying that Aristophanes is denying the possibility of any sort of meaning or commitment at all: it may still be true that some readings are more plausible than others. Those who prefer to think that Aristophanes, despite his ironical or playful attitude, is basically endorsing the ‘didacticist’ view of comedy can point to several other passages in which Aristophanes ostensibly makes similar declarations about the social utility of his own poetry.

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