Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry

Poetics before Plato: Interpretation and Authority in Early Greek Theories of Poetry

by Grace M. Ledbetter

Hardcover

$69.95
View All Available Formats & Editions
Members save with free shipping everyday! 
See details

Overview

Combining literary and philosophical analysis, this study defends an utterly innovative reading of the early history of poetics. It is the first to argue that there is a distinctively Socratic view of poetry and the first to connect the Socratic view of poetry with earlier literary tradition.

Literary theory is usually said to begin with Plato's famous critique of poetry in the Republic. Grace Ledbetter challenges this entrenched assumption by arguing that Plato's earlier dialogues Ion, Protagoras, and Apology introduce a distinctively Socratic theory of poetry that responds polemically to traditional poets as rival theorists. Ledbetter tracks the sources of this Socratic response by introducing separate readings of the poetics implicit in the poetry of Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar. Examining these poets' theories from a new angle that uncovers their literary, rhetorical, and political aims, she demonstrates their decisive influence on Socratic thinking about poetry.

The Socratic poetics Ledbetter elucidates focuses not on censorship, but on the interpretation of poetry as a source of moral wisdom. This philosophical approach to interpreting poetry stands at odds with the poets' own theories—and with the Sophists' treatment of poetry. Unlike the Republic's focus on exposing and banishing poetry's irrational and unavoidably corrupting influence, Socrates' theory includes poetry as subject matter for philosophical inquiry within an examined life.

Reaching back into what has too long been considered literary theory's prehistory, Ledbetter advances arguments that will redefine how classicists, philosophers, and literary theorists think about Plato's poetics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691096094
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 11/10/2002
Pages: 144
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Grace M. Ledbetter is Associate Professor of Classics and Philosophy at Swarthmore College.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Abbreviations xi

Introduction: Poetry, Knowledge, and Interpretation 1

Chapter One: Supernatural Knowledge in Homeric Poetics 9

Poetry and Knowledge 15

The Object of Knowledge 19

The Poet 22

The Audience 26

The Sirens 27

Does the Theory Apply to the Poem? 34

Chapter Two: Hesiod's Naturalism 40

Poetry and Skepticism 42

Poetic Therapy as Mimesis 48

Personality in Hesiod 54

Chapter Three: Pindar: The Poet as Interpreter 62

Poetry, Truth, and Deception 68

Poetry and Its Effect 74

Chapter Four: Socratic Poetics 78

A Rhapsode's Knowledge 79

Ion's Virtuosity 84

Poetic Inspiration and Socratic Interpretation (533d-536d) 87

The Rhapsode's Speech (536d-542b) 95

Chapter Five: Toward a Model of Socratic Interpretation 99

Protagoras as Critic 101

Socrates as Sophistic Interpreter 104

The Puzzle 108

Socrates against the Sophists 111

The Oracle, a Socratic Interpretation 114

Bibliographic References 119

Index 125

What People are Saying About This

Jenny Strauss Clay

Ledbetter's views are bold and brilliantly argued. Her book solves some of the most critical and controversial problems in early Greek poetics.
Jenny Strauss Clay, University of Virginia

Moravcsik

This is an excellent book that should change the ways in which we approach Plato's views on art, especially literature. Ledbetter unearths many riches as she places Socrates, and by implication Plato, in the context of what poets and other literary figures have said about the nature of poetry. Her book is highly original and strikes out along a new path.
Julius M. Moravcsik, Stanford University

From the Publisher

"This is an excellent book that should change the ways in which we approach Plato's views on art, especially literature. Ledbetter unearths many riches as she places Socrates, and by implication Plato, in the context of what poets and other literary figures have said about the nature of poetry. Her book is highly original and strikes out along a new path."—Julius M. Moravcsik, Stanford University

Customer Reviews