Refrains in Ancient Greek Poetry

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What do refrains contribute to ancient Greek poetry? Modern scholarship has usually limited its treatment of ancient Greek refrains to considerations of their external associations. The tendency has been to explain refrains, both individually and as a formal type, by reference to assumed origins for the refrain form and its use in primitive song, for which we have little or no evidence. By contrast, I have attempted to explain the refrain form as an established feature within the ancient Greek poetic tradition. I am interested in two questions. First, what do individual refrains contribute to the individual poems in which they appear? Second, what literary refrain tradition is indicated by the surviving examples? Obviously the answering of one question involves the answering of the other. Before an examination can be made of individual refrains in context, there are some general questions that must be asked. In CHAPTER 2, I examine the treatment of refrains by ancient Greek scholarship. This involves examining the scholarly terminology associated with refrains, especially the term "ephymnion". In CHAPTER 3 I test the commonly held hypothesis that refrains are sung by a chorus in response to stanzas provided by a soloist. In CHAPTER 4 I address the question of the often assumed relationship between sub-literary song and the refrains in surviving Greek poetry. I do this by investigating ritual cries and their use both within and outside the context of formal refrains. Once these general questions have been addressed, we may consider individual refrains in context. Since, as I shall argue, refrains find their most natural "home" in the monostrophic and triadic structures of non-dramatic lyric, I begin there in CHAPTER 5. Then I examine refrains in the antistrophic context of dramatic lyric in CHAPTER 6. I conclude my examination with the refrains of bucolic hexameters in CHAPTER 7. As it happens, this order coincides (very broadly speaking) with chronological order and thus reflects what I shall argue is the development of a continuous refrain tradition in ancient Greek poetry.

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refrain; poetry, lyric; poetry, greek


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bibid: 6475923

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