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Between Ecstasy and TruthInterpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus$
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Stephen Halliwell

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199570560

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199570560.001.0001

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Setting the Scene: Questions of Poetic Value in Greek Culture

Setting the Scene: Questions of Poetic Value in Greek Culture

(p.1) 1 Setting the Scene: Questions of Poetic Value in Greek Culture
Between Ecstasy and Truth

Stephen Halliwell

Oxford University Press

Starting from the song of Phemius in Odyssey 1, with the divergent reactions to it of the suitors, Penelope, and Telemachus, this chapter introduces some of the competing views of poetry which developed in ancient Greek culture. In particular, it formulates the book's organizing contrast between the values of ‘ecstasy’ (poetic experience as a transformative act of imaginative and emotional engagement) and ‘truth’ (whether descriptive or normative). In considering ideas of poetry's relationship to reality, the chapter also poses the complex question whether ancient Greeks had a concept of fiction. The themes of the book are illustrated through two preliminary case studies: the Muses' message to Hesiod in the Theogony, and the counterpoint between poetry and history in Thucydides. There is also a full synopsis of the remaining chapters.

Keywords:   ecstasy, emotion, fiction, Hesiod, history, imagination, Muses, Odyssey, Thucydides, truth

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