The Poetics of Failure in Ancient Greece  book cover
1st Edition

The Poetics of Failure in Ancient Greece

ISBN 9781472479112
Published April 28, 2020 by Routledge
214 Pages 15 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The Poetics of Failure in Ancient Greece offers an innovative approach to archaic and classical Greek literature by focusing on an original and rather unexplored topic. Through close readings of epic, lyric, and tragic poetry, the book engages into a thorough discourse on error, loss, and inadequacy as a personal and collective experience.

Stamatia Dova revisits key passages from the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, Pindar's epinician odes, Euripides' Herakles, and other texts to identify a poetics of failure that encompasses gods, heroes, athletes, and citizens alike. From Odysseus' shortcomings as a captain in the Odyssey to the defeat of anonymous wrestlers at the 460 B.C.E. Olympics in Pindar, this study examines failure from a mythological, literary, and historical perspective. Mindful of ancient Greek society's emphasis on honor and shame, Dova's in-depth analysis also sheds light on cultural responses to failure as well as on its preservation in societal memory, as in the case of Phrynichos' The Fall of Miletos in 493 B.C.E. Athens.

Engaging for both scholars and students, this book is key reading for those interested in how ancient Greek literary paradigms tried to answer the question of how and why we fail.

Table of Contents


1. Odysseus' failure and the opening of our Odyssey

2. Theseus, Peirithoos, and the poetics of a failed katabasis

3. Herakles and the limits of sanity

4. Whose fault is it?

5. Achilles, Melikertes, and the perils of immersion

6. Who wants Tithonos' Immortality?

7. On heroes and athletes in Homer

8. Winner takes all

9. Neither silver nor bronze

10. Collective aposiōpēsis and the failure of the Ionian revolt

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Stamatia Dova is Professor of Classics at Hellenic College Holy Cross in Brookline, Massachusetts and Associate in Hellenic Language and Literature at the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. Her publications include Greek Heroes in and out of Hades (Lexington Books, 2012).