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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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Chapter 2. Poet and Metapoesis in Idyll 11


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Idyll 11 is readily associated with Idyll 6 and Idyll 13. All three poems have a specific addressee and employ mythological subjects to elaborate erotic themes. Like Idyll 6, Idyll 11 offers a retrospective, mimetic account of Polyphemos’ love for Galatea. Idyll 11 has much in common with Idyll 13: both Idylls are addressed to the poet’s friend, Nicias.1 Both Idylls 11 and 13 offer an introductory frame to a mythological narrative. Legendary figures are explicitly proffered as exemplars of the power of Eros and, at least in the case of Idyll 11, how to combat his effects. Of the two, Idyll 11 inscribes within the introductory frame a more robust instantiation of Theocritus’ own narrating persona. The poet casts himself himself as a fellow Sicilian, advisor, and confidant of Nicias. ← 75 | 76 →

Idyll 11 begins with a simple gnomic declaration addressed to Nicias:

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