Early Writing Metaphors in Performance

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This paper investigates the intersection of writing and performance in early Greek poetry. It takes as a springboard the performed literacy of Callias’ Alphabet Tragedy, and notes the wealth of references to books, reading, and writing across Old Comedy. Whereas the folding tablet and the papyrus roll came to represent writing from the final quarter of fifth-century BCE onwards, earlier Greek poetry draws on a broader range writing technologies as metaphors for performance, such as the skytalē, the sphragis, and epigraphic inscription. Other indications that poetry is conceptualized in terms of its written medium among some Archaic poets are the distinction between song and words; references to poems as lines of text; and direct quotation of earlier poets’ work. The final section of the chapter discusses how these phenomena relate to what is commonly referred to in classical scholarship as the poet’s sphragis; the origins of this term are discussed, as is its suitability to the broad range of phenomena it purports to index.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-press)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 13 Feb 2024
EventOrality and Literacy XIV: Textualization - Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities - Online, Israel
Duration: 20 Jun 202123 Jun 2021
Conference number: 14


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