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.
|Publisher:||Princeton University Press|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
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About the Author
Table of ContentsAcknowledgments ix
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
What People are Saying About This
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
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
"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