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Birth of the Symbol : Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts - Peter T. Struck

Birth of the Symbol

Ancient Readers at the Limits of Their Texts

Hardcover Published: 25th April 2004
ISBN: 9780691116976
Number Of Pages: 312

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Nearly all of us have studied poetry and been taught to look for the symbolic as well as literal meaning of the text. Is this the way the ancients saw poetry? In "Birth of the Symbol," Peter Struck explores the ancient Greek literary critics and theorists who invented the idea of the poetic "symbol."

The book notes that Aristotle and his followers did not discuss the use of poetic symbolism. Rather, a different group of Greek thinkers--the allegorists--were the first to develop the notion. Struck extensively revisits the work of the great allegorists, which has been underappreciated. He links their interest in symbolism to the importance of divination and magic in ancient times, and he demonstrates how important symbolism became when they thought about religion and philosophy. "They see the whole of great poetic language as deeply figurative," he writes, "with the potential always, even in the most mundane details, to be freighted with hidden messages."

"Birth of the Symbol" offers a new understanding of the role of poetry in the life of ideas in ancient Greece. Moreover, it demonstrates a connection between the way we understand poetry and the way it was understood by important thinkers in ancient times.

Industry Reviews

Winner of the 2007 Charles J. Goodwin Award of Merit "A rich and fascinating account of how the ideas of symbolism and allegorical reading developed over the course of classical antiquity. It is a remarkable achievement."--David Konstan, Literary Imagination "This book offers a remarkably comprehensive study of ancient symbolic interpretation from the Pre-Socratics to the later Neoplatonists and beyond."--Derek Collins, Classical World

Acknowledgmentsp. xi
The Genealogy of the Symbolicp. 1
Symbols and Riddles: Allegorical Reading and the Boundaries of the Textp. 21
Beginnings to 300 b.c.e.: Meaning from the Void of Chance and the Silence of the Secretp. 77
From the Head of Zeus: The Birth of the Literary Symbolp. 111
Swallowed Children and Bound Gods: The Diffusion of the Literary Symbolp. 142
300 b.c.e.-200 c.e.: The Symbol as Ontological Signifierp. 162
Iamblichus and the Defense of Ritual: Talismanic Symbolsp. 204
Moonstones and Men That Glow: Proclus and the Talismanic Signifierp. 227
Epilogue Symbol Traces: Post-Proclean Theoriesp. 254
Appendix Chrysippus's Reading and Authorial Intention: The Case of the Mural at Samosp. 279
Bibliography of Ancient Authorsp. 283
Bibliography of Modern Authorsp. 285
Index Locorump. 297
General Indexp. 311
Table of Contents provided by Publisher. All Rights Reserved.

ISBN: 9780691116976
ISBN-10: 0691116970
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 312
Published: 25th April 2004
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Country of Publication: US
Dimensions (cm): 24.03 x 15.8  x 2.54
Weight (kg): 0.63