The Pindaric First Person in Flux

TitleThe Pindaric First Person in Flux
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsCurrie, BGF
Ancient AuthorsPindarus Lyr. (TLG 0033), Bacchylides Lyr. (TLG 0199)
JournalClassical Antiquity

This article argues that in Pindar's epinicians first-person statements may occasionally be made in the persona of the chorus and the athletic victor. The speaking persona behind Pindar's first-person statements varies quite widely: from generic, rhetorical poses—a laudator, an aoidos in the rhapsodic tradition (the “bardic first person”), an Everyman (the “first person indefinite”)—to strongly individualized figures: the Theban poet Pindar, the chorus, the victor. The arguable changes in the speaker's persona are not explicitly signalled in the text. This can lead to significant ambiguities concerning the identity of the speaker (“blurred quotation,” “indeterminate speech boundaries”). The lack of a concern always to distinguish clearly the primary from the secondary narrators relates to a desire to confuse diegetic and mimetic forms; the practice of the fifth-century choral lyric poets in this regard is compared to that of other ancient Greek writers. The main challenge is to indicate how it is possible, in theory and in practice, for the athletic victor to be identified as the speaker when this is not explicitly signalled in the text; and, if this is possible, to suggest how it is possible for an audience to recognize when the speaking persona subsequently reverts to laudator or poet. An attempt is made to consider whether any formal, structural, or thematic tendencies can be observed in those passages in choral lyric where the chorus or the victor are tacitly introduced as speaking personae: such effects, it is argued, occur especially when links of ritual or genealogy enable the ode to “zoom” from the mythical past to the present occasion of the performance. The main passages discussed in the article are Pind. P.8.56–60, P.9.89–92, N.7.85, Pae. 2.73–79, and Bacch. 3.84–85. But the phenomena discussed are related broadly to other phenomena in Greek literature, in Latin poetry, and, especially, in Cicero's forensic oratory. []


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