Is Korybantic Performance a (Lyric) Genre?

TitleIs Korybantic Performance a (Lyric) Genre?
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsGriffith, M
EditorFoster, M, Kurke, L, Weiss, NA
Ancient AuthorsAristoteles et Corpus Aristotelicum Phil. (TLG 0086)
Book TitleGenre in Archaic and Classical Greek Poetry: Theories and Models
Series TitleStudies in Archaic and Classical Greek Song 4; Mnemosyne Supplements 428

Korybantic rites and other musical performances of similar type involving strong emotional affect were widely practiced throughout the ancient Greek world, but they are not normally discussed as examples of “Greek lyric.” The relative unimportance of the verbal component, together with elite biases, ancient and modern, about the nature, purpose, and participants in such rituals, seem to have unduly marginalized lyric performances of this kind. With the help particularly of Aristotle’s comments on different kinds of musical affect in Politics Book 8, this chapter explores not just the reasons for this omission but also some key characteristics of Korybantic rituals and other related performance types of an exciting and mood-altering kind, which together clearly constituted a significant segment of Greek “song culture” even though they do not survive as written texts. My discussion contributes another relevant dimension to this volume’s range of approaches to the question of what constitutes a “lyric genre,” and what poetic, social, and performative criteria should be invoked in answering such a question. []


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