Show Less
Restricted access

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.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Chapter 4. Nemean 1 and Idyll 24: The Poetics of Heroic Revisionism


| 151 →

·  4  ·


The Poetics of Heroic Revisionism

Idyll 24, an “epyllion,”1 recounts baby Herakles strangling of two serpents sent by Hera. After Herakles strangles the monsters, the prophet Teiresias is summoned. Teiresias furnishes an extended prophecy that envisions Herakles’ future accomplishments. In contrast to the other mythological Idylls, Theocritus adopts a straightforward, “Homeric” form of narration: an external, disembodied voice recapitulates past actions with a mix of narrative and mimesis. However, this quasi-hymn, which may well have been written for a particular occasion,2 appropriates its story from a lyric model: Pindar’s Nemean 1. Theocritus’ version of the Heracliscus significantly departs both structurally and thematically from that of his literary predecessor. In the course of these revisions, Theocritus creates an elaborate interplay between his story-telling and that of the sources upon which it is based.

Idyll 24 opens with a simple “once upon a time” (“ποχ’” [24.1]). The story of Herakles’ infant prowess ensues. After Alkmene rocks her 10-month-old ← 151 | 152 → twins to sleep in their father’s shield, Hera sends two monstrous serpents to kill the infant hero (24.1–16). Baby Herakles, with the help of “all-knowing” Zeus (Διὸς νοέοντος ἅπαντα [24.21]), is startled awake as Hera’s hissing monsters approach. Miraculously, the babe does not succumb to the serpents’ onslaught, but he rather nonchalantly strangles them (24.17–33). Alkmene first stirs to the screams of baby Iphikles, whose natural terror contrasts starkly with Herakles’ preternatural bravery. Despite...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.