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The Hidden ChorusEchoes of Genre in Tragic Lyric$
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L. A. Swift

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199577842

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199577842.001.0001

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Lyric Poetry in an Athenian Context

Lyric Poetry in an Athenian Context

(p.35) 2 Lyric Poetry in an Athenian Context
The Hidden Chorus

L. A. Swift

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the role that choral performance and lyric poetry held in fifth‐century Athenian life. It begins by examining the evidence for choral performance in Athens, and goes on to discuss how lyric poetry was known and circulated. Since many ‘high’ forms of poetry were known by elite means, this leads to a discussion of elite poetic material in democratic society, looking at the institution of the symposium and deriving evidence from oratory and comedy, as well as evidence from material culture. The chapter argues that Athenian attitudes to elite poetry were aspirational and that large sections of the tragic audience would have responded to lyric references. The chapter concludes with a discussion of tragedy's relationship to democracy and to Athenian civic ideology.

Keywords:   tragedy, lyric, chorus, elite, democracy, symposium, comedy, lawcourt speeches, archaeological evidence, civic ideology, Athens

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