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Modes of Viewing in Hellenistic Poetry and Art

And Art

Graham Zanker

Publication Year: 2008

Taking a fresh look at the poetry and visual art of the Hellenistic age, from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. to the Romans’ defeat of Cleopatra in 30 B.C., Graham Zanker makes enlightening discoveries about the assumptions and conventions of Hellenistic poets and artists and their audiences.
    Zanker’s exciting new interpretations closely compare poetry and art for the light each sheds on the other. He finds, for example, an exuberant expansion of subject matter in the Hellenistic periods in both literature and art, as styles and iconographic traditions reserved for grander concepts in earlier eras were applied to themes, motifs, and subjects that were emphatically less grand.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. vii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

In this book I explore the ways in which the visual arts and the poetry of the Hellenistic age direct the viewer and the reader to look at the subjects that they portray in their respective media. I therefore hope that what I have to say will be of interest to two audiences: on the one hand, students...


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pp. xiii-xiv

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1. Aims, Approaches, and Samples

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pp. 3-26

What processes were at work when hearers or readers of poetry in the Hellenistic period envisaged the scenes presented by the poets of their day? How did people in that period view contemporary works of art? And to what extent are we entitled to talk in terms of analogies between the two...

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2. Full Presentation of the Image

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pp. 27-71

Hellenistic visual art and poetry created modes of viewing in order to involve viewers and readers visually and spatially. This chapter and the two which follow examine this process. Here recent findings by art historians are particularly worth transferring to our approaches to poetry, for they...

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3. Reader or Viewer Supplementation

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pp. 72-102

Art historians have recently drawn our attention to a remarkable and important departure in Hellenistic art from the traditional manner of presentation. As Peter von Blanckenhagen, Hugo Meyer, and Henner von Hesberg have shown, artists now frequently leave the context of single-figure...

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4. Reader or Viewer Integration

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pp. 103-123

Hellenistic artists and poets, as we have seen, drew viewers and readers into an image through invitations to supplement contexts and fill in narratives. Sometimes they went farther. Thanks in particular to von Hesberg, we are comparatively familiar with the artists’ technique of physically integrating...

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5. An Eye for the New: Poetic Genres, Iconographical Traditions

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pp. 124-143

The innovations of Hellenistic artists and poets which we have already explored, remarkable as they are, are not the whole story. A good portion of the picture remains to be filled in, and that is the special task of this chapter and the next. This involves going beyond the Hellenistic optic nerve (physical...

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6. Viewing Pleasure and Pain

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pp. 144-167

Of all the gods and heroes endowed with human traits in Hellenistic art and poetry, Aphrodite is pre-eminently and the most sensually so.1 Her novel nakedness in the late Classical Cnidia (see Ill. 9), which was especially admired at least in later antiquity for its equally gratifying viewability from...


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pp. 171-199


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pp. 201-214


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pp. 215-223

E-ISBN-13: 9780299194536
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299194505

Publication Year: 2008