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Ancient Portraits of Poets: Communities, Canons, Receptions

WALLIS, WILLIAM (2016) Ancient Portraits of Poets: Communities, Canons, Receptions. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis examines the ancient sculptural portraits of poets in relation to the literary reception of their works by investigating a range of contexts for, and interactions with, these objects. Contemporary scholarship has found it productive to examine biographical material relating to ancient poets as evidence for early reception. This thesis explores how the ancient portraits of poets take part in the constructions of these authors, and how they are integrated into the reception of ancient poetry.
Recent scholarship has cast doubts over the methodologies conventionally used to relate portraits to the biographical reception of their subjects: there are strong arguments that an individualistic character-based approach to these objects can mislead us about how they were perceived in their various ancient contexts. This thesis takes a different approach by considering the archaeological contexts and literary interactions in which we find these objects, from fourth-century BC Athens to sixteenth-century AD Ferrara.
I show how, through these contexts and interactions, the sculptural portraits of poets can engage in keys ways with the literary reception of their subjects: Hellenistic communities use portraits to strengthen their connections to prestigious poets; Roman aristocrats use portraits of poets to signal engagement with Greek culture and therefore elite status; poets are positioned within literary histories and canons through programmatic assemblages; later poets focus on portraits in order to explore their relationships to their predecessors; finally, early modern writers present these portraits as offering an engagement with an absent poet that complements reading the poet’s works. These, then, are the three main concerns of this thesis: communities, canons, and receptions.
The case studies examined in this thesis show that the portraits of poets have been engaged in literary reception from antiquity to the present, and that they have raised persistent questions about presence and absence in literary encounters.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Poets; Portraiture; Ancient Greek Literature; Latin Literature; Reception Studies; Sculpture; Antiquarianism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Classics and Ancient History, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Jan 2017 15:52

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