Sailing and Singing: Alcaeus at Sea

TitleSailing and Singing: Alcaeus at Sea
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsUhlig, AS
EditorBudelmann, F, Phillips, T
Ancient AuthorsAlcaeus Lyr. (TLG 0383)
Book Title Textual Events: Performance and the Lyric in Early Greece
PublisherOxford University Press

This chapter suggests that it is time to take a new look at Alcaeus’ so-called ‘ship of state’ poems. Although few scholars now question that these poems should be read allegorically, this consensus is a relatively recent phenomenon, due, it is contended, to a desire to situate the poems in a historical performance context (whether political or otherwise) that is now lost to us. The interpretative emphasis on conditions of performance context obscures the maritime concerns of these poems, grounded as they are in the very real seafaring trade of Alcaeus’ native Mytilene. The chapter suggests that scholars should pay more attention to the maritime ‘surface’ meaning of Alcaeus’ work, and that such ‘surface reading’ can serve as a model for how lyric poetry strives to create imaginative spaces beyond the frames of its historical performance. []


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