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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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Poetry in the light of Prose: Gorgias, Isocrates, Philodemus

Poetry in the light of Prose: Gorgias, Isocrates, Philodemus

(p.266) 6 Poetry in the light of Prose: Gorgias, Isocrates, Philodemus
Between Ecstasy and Truth

Stephen Halliwell

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers three prose-writers each of whom, in his own way, evaluates poetry in relation to prose. Gorgias' Helen, itself a kind of prose-poem, makes poetry fully part of a larger realm of discourse, logos. The capacity of logos in all its forms embraces both truth and deception; contrary to a prevailing line of interpretation, it is argued that Gorgias' conception of language does not collapse into a version of psychological relativism. Isocrates' more muted attitude to poetry, including his downgrading of its imaginative and emotional powers, is interpreted as a reflection of his own priorities of pragmatic utility. Finally, an analysis of the contentious views of Philodemus diagnoses in them an imperfectly realized desire to negotiate a path between moralism and formalism and also to separate the value of poetry definitively from that of prose.

Keywords:   deception, discourse, formalism, Gorgias, Isocrates, logos, moralism, Philodemus, pragmatism, prose

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