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Reading Voices

Five Studies in Theocritus’ Narrating Techniques


J. Andrew Foster

This book is a study of Theocritus’ narrating techniques, intertextual practices, and the relationship between them. By a close, careful description and analysis of these features as particularly deployed in Idylls 6, 11, 13, 24, and 15, J. Andrew Foster provides detailed readings of these specific poems, demonstrating how each poem’s narrative structure and its intratextual and intertextual affiliations interact to characterize the voices and audiences expressed and imagined by the discourse. Within these poems Theocritus especially orchestrates polyphonic voices speaking to diverse fictional, ideal, and actual audiences and so authorizes a range of responses to speech-in-text. His densely allusive poems exhibit an iterative aspect and resistance to closure that particularly encourage his readers to help compose larger metanarratives in which such resolution can be achieved or the particular episode can be better understood. The interplay between the referential systems inscribed within these poems and their rhetorical structure exemplifies how Theocritus encourages his poetry to be incorporated into a wider literary discourse by which that wider literary landscape is transformed. Within these experiments in narration and reception, Theocritus exhibits an intense engagement with the literary past and his critical present whose receptions and authority are continually problematized. These readings will serve as a springboard into the wider ongoing study of the problems of poetic voice, authority, and literary innovation within Theocritus’ poetry in particular and Hellenistic poetry in general.
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This book began as a dissertation at the University of Chicago some time ago. Chris Faraone, Liz Asmis, and David Wray served as my dissertation advisors. They offered much useful advice, more of which I probably should have taken. I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Chris Faraone, who has remained a steadfast friend through all of these years. Adrienne Craig Williams provided proofreading assistance while another Fordham graduate student, Harrison Troyano, meticulously re-proofed the manuscript and created the index. The editorial staff at Peter Lang, Jackie Pavlovic and Michelle Salyga, have provided much timely assistance as they have shepherded this manuscript through the publication process. Though it may seem a bit odd, I am peculiarly grateful to Theocritus of Syracuse for devoting his life to the poetry that has enriched my life. I hope my own work reflects my appreciation. Most of all I thank my family, my children, Joe, Iris, Eli, and Leo and my loving wife, Kathy. Kathy has been with this project from the beginning and she has done more to improve this work than anyone else. She has done more to improve me than I could ever say. I dedicate this book to her.

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