Experiencing Elegy: Materiality and Visuality in the Ambracian Polyandrion

TitleExperiencing Elegy: Materiality and Visuality in the Ambracian Polyandrion
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsEstrin, S
EditorFoster, M, Kurke, L, Weiss, NA
Book TitleGenre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
Series TitleStudies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song 4; Mnemosyne Supplements 428

This paper explores the relationship between elegy and mourning by offering a new interpretation of the elegiac poem inscribed into the face of a massive archaic funerary monument from Ambracia. My starting point is the inherently disjunctive structure of the elegiac couplet, which formalizes the act of mourning attributed to the poem’s first-person voice—a voice that simultaneously points towards the deceased and laments their absence. This structure of mourning, in turn, permeates the configuration of the monument, including the carving of its blocks and the layout of the inscription across its surface. Where the poem is sometimes understood as a script or record of a prior performance, I argue that, for a viewer who reads the poem as a function of the monument, the first-person mourning voice is that of the monument itself. The viewer who confronts this mourning monument comes to empathize with it both physically and emotionally, using the structure of mourning to give emotional meaning to their own material and aesthetic experience of the monument. Because the monument expresses the grief of the entire city, it works towards transforming the viewer not simply into mourner but into citizen—a process that takes place at each step through the structure inherent in the elegiac couplet. [https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004412590/BP000015.xml?body=contentSummary-23240]


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