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Traditional ElegyThe Interplay of Meter, Tradition, and Context in Early Greek Poetry$
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R. Scott Garner

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199757923

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199757923.001.0001

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Formulas in Early Greek Elegy

Formulas in Early Greek Elegy

(p.19) Chapter 2 Formulas in Early Greek Elegy
Traditional Elegy

R. Scott Garner

Oxford University Press

Given the structuring properties discovered for archaic Greek elegy in Chapter 1, Chapter 2 proceeds to demonstrate that such structuring tendencies were used to great benefit by elegists for the employment of regularly recurring phrases that could be adapted to fit varying metrical contexts. Through the investigation of a subset of poetic phraseology labeled “lexical formulas,” that is, “groups of two or more lexemes that appear together regularly in order to fill out completely a traditionally defined colon or cola either by themselves or in conjunction with prepositive or postpositive words,” this chapter demonstrates that recurring phrases within archaic elegy were localized and transformed within the couplet according to standardized rules that share great affinity with the techniques that lay at the heart of early Greek epic. There did indeed exist, then, a traditional system of meter and poetic language that would have enabled elegiac poets to employ formulaic phraseology within their verses, and this system seems to work in symbiosis with epic verse‐making techniques rather than as a parallel but generically separate practice.

Keywords:   lexical formula, elegy, epic, Greek meter, formulaic phraseology

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