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Review: [untitled] Author(s): Andrew Ford Reviewed work(s): Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece

Review: [untitled] Author(s): Andrew Ford Reviewed work(s):

Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece by Jesper Svenbro ; Janet Lloyd Source: Classical Philology, Vol. 89, No. 4 (Oct., 1994), pp. 367-372 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/270606

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BOOK REVIEWS

Phrasikleia: An Anthropology of Reading in Ancient Greece. By JESPERSVENBRO. Translatedfrom the French by JANETLLOYD. Myth and Poetics. Ithaca and Lon- don: Cornell University Press, 1993. Pp. xiv + 233; several figs. in text. $37.95 (cloth), $12.95 (paper). It is to be hoped that Janet Lloyd's fine translationof this 1988 book will bring Svenbro's work to a wider audience. His La parola e il marmo has been relatively little used by American classicists; yet it is a strong account of the social origins of Greek literary criticism and makes a superb complement to Detienne's classic Les maitres de verite.1Phrasikleia continues S.'s interest, inspiredby Eric Havelock, in how the modes of communication of pre-classical Greece were related to its social and economic institutions. Its particular concern is to redress an imbalance in the study of Greek literacy by foregrounding the role of the reader. In line with recent work on ancient literacy, S. generally resists the temptation to make writing a "universal catalyst" explaining all the major developments of archaic Greek culture.2 As an "anthropology," Phrasikleia is concerned with the cultural meaning of reading more thanits technology or presumed intrinsic powers. S.'s method is a structuralist analysis of texts, myths, and artifacts to uncover the various "models" they exhibit of the relation of readerto writer. His "microsociol- ogy of written communication" (p. 3) finally aims to enter into that space between readerand text so as to view their transactionas a social event. Following Foucault

and Bourdieu, S. holds that this transaction was

power and autonomy, and so seeks paradigms for Greek conceptions of the reader in such diverse and apparently unrelated social practices as exogamous marriage, pederasty, and the Athenian theater.

In format, Phrasikleia is a dossier of ten case studies (some published previ-

ously) that range from seventh-century inscriptions to the Phaedrus. Yet the stud- ies are interrelatedand taken together suggest a broad history of Greek ideologies about the relation of readerand writer that provokes some reservations. But first it is necessary to sketch the theses of individual chapters, if only to indicate S.'s range of topics. The first three chapters focus on inscriptional evidence. S. begins with a stun-

ningly rich reading of

cal and iconographic codes combine to insist that KkEo0 (which is cognate with

English

often charged with questions of

the Phrasikleiamonumentand inscription (CEG 29): its lexi-

"loud") must re-sound; at the same time, writing, like Phrasikleia herself,

1. J. Svenbro, La parola e il marmo: Alle

2.

origini delle poetica greca (Turin, 1984), revised and cor-

marbre: Aux origines de la poetique grecque (Lund, 1976); discussed from a

Dialoghi di Archeologia 2

(1981): 1-108. Also noteworthy is S.'s, "La de-

rected ed. of La Parole et le variety of points of view in

coupe du poeme. Notes sur les origines

sacrificielles de la

po6tique grecque," Poetique 58 (1984): 215-32.

R. Thomas, Literacy and Orality in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, 1992), p. 19.

Permission to reprint a review

in this section may be obtained only from the author.

367

368

BOOKREVIEWS

can only "show" KcX~oand needs to conscript the voice of a readerto be fulfilled. The dynamics of this "machine for propagating sounds" (p. 2) are recovered through a wider sampling of archaic inscriptions in chapter 2. Here S. argues that before the mid-sixth century the first person was the default case in sepulchral and

dedicatory inscriptions (for the most part, S.

n. 55). His argument is not simply that none of the texts in Pfohl3 and Lazzarini from before 600 B.C.E.is explicitly in the third person, but also that a o6Ewithout

explicit verb is easily associated in Greek with the first person (e.g., Od. 16.205-6, CEG 174A). Hence not only is a votive "Ai"to be read "I was dedicated to Zeus" (p. 39), but a text such as ofpa T6o'sipti KpiTov(CEG 72) may be rendered"Here

I am, the tomb of Krites," ratherthan taken as a "contaminated"formula (p. 32).4 In these chapters S. gives an entirely new interpretation of the meaning of this first person. His argument is that, when writing enteredthese commemorative con- texts it did not simply translateestablished oral utterancesinto permanent form but rathercreated an entirely new kind of speech act. The inscribed "I" belonged nei-

leaves graffiti and depinti aside, p. 38,

ther to the writer (i.e.,

no dedicator

ever said "I am the Grjta of

") nor to the

reader, but was assigned to the object to declare its perpetual "hereness." Given the classical and archaic (S. infers, partly from the use of scriptio continua) habit of reading aloud, this inscribed "I" has two major implications: writers must

preserving their own (first-person)utterances, and readers are

forego any hope of

dominated in being forced to pronounce words not their own.

Burzachechi's thesis that

animistic beliefs endowed these "speaking objects" with life and voice;5 for S. ar- gues in chapter 3 thatreal, resounding voice is what inscriptions crucially lack and must extract from readers. Although Burzachechi's thesis is, as S. says, indemon- strable, one may be reluctant to rule out all animistic attitudes towards archaic monuments in light of such religious practices as binding, beating, and banishing statues. Indeed, it seems that Phrasikleia'smonument was buried fairly soon after it was erected, presumably for safekeeping. To hide this "fame-shower" from the sight of others and yet to think one has not destroyed it suggests that other beliefs about the powers of an inscribed artifact may have overlapped with its indubitable mission to be seen, to be read, and to provoke sound. Chapter 4 finds perhaps the oldest model by which the Greeks elaborated the concept of writing (p. 80) in the practice of naming a child from the fatheror grand-

father. In this perspective, sepulchral inscriptions offer a Kx?o; that, by repeating the fame of the father,assures a durable"acoustic"ratherthanbiological posterity. The mythic expression of this "genealogical" model of fame is studied in chapter5, an exemplary structuralanalysis of the love story of Phokos and Kallirhoe from Plutarch(Mor. 774D-75B). Comparison with lesser-known stories aboutthe inven- tion of writing shows the tale to be concerned with the posthumous renown that writing makes possible. In contrastto the Platonic model where the written?6&yo is

S.'s approach to this rarely pondered question rejects

3. I have checked S.'s references against P. A. Hansen, Carmina epigraphica graeca saeculorum vii-v

a. Chr. n. (Berlin and New York, 1983), which I cite.

4. Yet this same text may support the case for contamination, since the carver began to write or|pa

T66' ?q,

and then corrected himself to ofCLa TO6'

eiLi.

5. M. Burzachechi, "Oggetti parlanti nelle epigrafi Greche,"Epigraphica 24 (1962): 3-54. For a semi-

ological approach, P. Pucci, "Inscriptions archaiques sur les statues des dieux," in Les Savoirs de'ecri- ture en Grece ancienne, ed. M. Detienne (Lille, 1988), pp. 480-97.

BOOKREVIEWS

369

the son

silent); the epitaph thus is an tciKkXrlpoS of

one who SvTuyXdvet the writing in both senses of that word) is the son-in-law;

united with

offspring of the father who will bear his name. In this worthy rival to the Platonic

myth, any Oedipal tension between the father/writerand son/text is replaced by a potentially fruitful and legitimate exchange between the father (writer) and the many suitors (readers) who would take possession of his daughter (his text). Chapters 6 and 7 argue that the Greek conception of law was inseparable from

its conception of reading, both of which set the very highest value on the word spo- ken aloud (p. 122). S. proposes an etymology for v6gtoS "law" from vE[itv in the sense "to read,"comparing Latin lex. In its prehistory, vEtctv would have applied to the "distribution"of laws through oral performance based on memory; this "oral distribution,"v6joS, became "law" and became "king" in the city when reading from written texts replaced the sonorous commands of the king or his spokesmen.

In the course of this argument S. makes

dvav?Vctv/-4o0at were early verbs for "to read" (cf. esp. Pind. 01. 6.90-91, cited on p. 111, a significant passage for the debate about epinician performance). De- spite S.'s best efforts (pp. 110-14), the etymology suffers from an admitteddearth of early evidence.6 Yet even without the etymology, S. reconstructsa plausible and suggestive evolution from oral to written legal practices that includes other terms such as ErryrMTai who are to be seen originally as performers ratherthan interpret- ers of laws. Legendary accounts of the relation of writing to the evolving concept of law are considered in chapter 7. Since, from the Greeks' point of view, reading is an act in which the reader'svocal apparatus is controlled not by his own WuXni but by the written inscription before him, S. reads the legends of Lycurgus, Numa, and Epimenides as showing how writing, not writing, and tatooing may function as strategies for the lawgiver to exercise power over the body of the citizens/readers after he is gone (p. 142). Chapter 8 moves laterally to assess this legal model of "reanimation through reading"(p. 146) in light of contemporarypoetic practice in Sappho. S.'s basic ar- gument is thatfor Sappho'slyrics to pass from theiroral forms into writtentexts they had to pass through the "orderof written discourse" as elaboratedin funeraryand votive inscriptions (p. 148). But these conventionally referredto the object in the first person and to the writerin the third, so that there was a clash with the oral "I" traditionalin monody. For S., this leads to a paradox: "Seen in the perspective of in- scriptions, where the writer does not refer to himself as an 'I,' Sappho'spoem, like so many other lyric and epic poems is an anomaly. For Sappho should have defined herself as 'absent,'or even 'dead,'using the demonstrativekeine" (p. 151). S. holds that in writing down her poems Sappho engaged these conventions and indeed that her texts allegorically speak of her inevitable future absence. Oaivesai [tot is read as an allegory in which the "breaking" of Sappho's voice (31.9 L-P) intimates her

of the writer, these stories envision writing as a daughter (both are ideally

her father'shearth, and the reader (the

the writing,

the son-in-law may engender the 6oyo;, the legitimate

the important point that

and

tvCVEE[ttv

6. Apart from Hesychius, the only example of the simplex v?tctv

frag. 144 Nauck-Radt. Examples of the reconstructed original sense of

the voice," are got by promoting into the text

20.249 and Hes. Op. 403 (similarly, Hymn. Horn.

ports the usual text and meaning, "pasturage of words."

with the meaning "to read"is Soph.

"distributionby means of

v6guo,

nTtiev v6[toq (= "oral diffusion") for tnCov vopg6 in Hom. II.

Ap.

20). But the agriculturalcontext of Op. 381ff. sup-

370

BOOKREVIEWS

own

"death by writing"(p. 152); the "godlike"figure she envies is the futurereader

who will breathea WuXfi into her poem (her "daughter,"ypa(pi) and espouse it when Sappho is gone.

Although this allegory is worked out in great detail, I was troubled by

the pre-

liminary arguments for taking this poem as allegorical at all. I failed to see

why the

"orderof written discourse" should necessarily have impinged on Sappho's poetic traditions, why she was not free to ignore or reinvent such usages. S.'s answer

appears to depend on generalizing inscriptional conventions that are admittedlype-

culiar into a Foucauldian "orderof written discourse" that "carriesthe force

established notion shared by the culture as a whole" (p. 149). But this may be to forget the variety of available communicative forms (e.g., personal letters), and a

perspective that finds most lyric poems "anomalous" betrays its extravagance. In chapter9, S. draws together several strandsof his argument to propose that si- lent reading was only conceptualized in the late sixth century B.C.E.and was popu- larized by the Athenian theater. Having argued that silent reading was at best a marginal phenomenon in the first centuries of the Greek alphabet, S. claims that dramavocalized texts in a radically new way. The actors on stage functioned as a

sort of "vocal writing" for the spectators, presenting to them a script that did not

need their interpretation and vocalization. The spectator who takes

so little effort was the model for the silent readerwho takes in the text with a pas- sivity suggestive of an Empedoclean percipient, whose eye receives the radiated oTotXgia of things. Once silent reading became common and people begin to "see" what a text says (p. 167), then writing could be regarded as more active and auton- omous: thus the idea that the silently read text, like an actor, presents itself to the readerleads to writingbeing regarded for the firsttime as having a voice (first in the unroKpivopal of an Athenian inscription of the late sixth century, Lazzarini 658.2).

S. claims that metaphors of "letters that speak"only begin to crop up in the second half of the fifth century (e.g., Hippolytus 877) and takes them as a sign not of in- creased literacy but of increased silent reading. So too metaphors of the "tablets of

the soul" (e.g., Pind. 01. 10.1-3) testify to the internalized,silently performed text. The new passivity and internalization in silent reading are connected to larger

changes in

Super Ego (comparing Crito 54D). The idea that silent reading and the concomitant metaphors of "speaking" in- scriptions only arose in Greece underthe aegis of the theaterseems an unnecessar-

ily strong case to make, and it remained unclear how dramatic performers were

more radically distanced from their passive public (pp. 168, 170, 180) than was the rhapsode while presenting his text from the Pfjpa. But this thesis is enmeshed in a larger history of "speaking objects" sketched through chapters 2, 3, and 9 that is not without obstacles. In chapter3, S. must dispose of two "speaking"inscriptions that run counter to his idea that before 400 B.C.E., "the Greeks did not believe in

writing that spoke-except

is the reader who must lend his voice to

first, S. proposes to correct a reading in the Mnesitheos inscription of about 475

from Eretria,which seems to speak:

of an

in the play with

fifth-century Greekculture by which v6oaoq was internalizedas the city's

in a metaphorical sense-conscious

v?p' Eir0eKe

as they were thatit

the mute stone" (p. 41; cf. p. 48). In the

(pie? p9ETCpTtlapTre

/ TUpOI n'I

aKpoTaTOI (rT?kEvdKadRaTov/ hdTtq ?pci tnaptool

(108.4-6

CEG). S. claims that

photographsclearly show a ho and not ha beginning line 6 of the poem (12 of the

BOOK REVIEWS

371

inscription); indeed so it was initially transcribed. Pointing to the text's predomi- nantly Attic-Ionic dialect, he reads hoi3Tri; pei: thereby the stele no longer speaks its message itself, but only says it marks the place "where someone [the reader] will speak" its message. My inexpert eye could make out nothing decisive from the

photograph, but the antecedent of this

epigraphic parallel for such a locative clause (not provided by the alleged model in the literary tradition, Iliad 7.91, where the conjunction is 4ig). Even allowing for our cultural distance from archaic Greece, the metaphor of writing as "speaking" seems easy enough to hit on, and the ayyeXho of the closely related Midas epigram is not so easily dismissed (p. 173, n. 46). The other troubling case is the inscription of Panamues from Halicarnassus about 475 (429 CEG). Most commentators interpret its arrestingopening au65 T?X-

ov is rather unclear, and I cannot think of an

v&cva

/ orriacv as spoken by a passerby to the monu-

ment or statue: the reader first bids the "voice contrived from stone" to "tell" the

Xi0o,

i9y7 Ti5 T06' a[[ya4ta]

vital data, and the voice proceeds to do so in the second couplet. But S. says in- scribed dialogues are a Hellenistic conceit, and so reads the entire text as an order from the stone to the reader to perform the entire message. The opening is thus ren- dered: "Oh voice [scil. of the reader] skilled in [scil. reading] stone, read [sic] out who set up this statue."This seems rather contorted, especially since the dialogue form may not be unparalleled in this period if "Simonides" (31 Page, FGE) is a real fifth-century verse and if a dialogue with the sphinx is initiated in 120 CEG. Since reading an archaic text aloud is to put a partof one's body at the service of another,chapter 10 adduces a final model for the dominated readerin nrat6spaoT{ia, with the readerin the role of 0p6ptevo4. The evidence for this is a kylix from 500-

nuwyiie, as well as earlier inscriptions

of the type 6 6civa KaTaTLuycv.In this scenario, writing is honorable but reading is

or faithless. All this is relevant to Pla-

to's great text on

reading of the dialogue traces recurrent oppositions such as distance/proximity and passion/dispassion to show that it is symmetrically centered on Socrates' palinode rather than on its notorious ending. Read in this way, the Phaedrus appears less

interested in opposing k6yo; to ypCapiO than in distinguishing between two kinds of

domineering, aphilosophic intercourse on the one hand, and an unfet-

free and equal interlocutorson the other (243C). Invoking

tered pursuit of truth by

Foucault's reading of this text, wherein

for power among unequals into a mutual love between symmetrical subjects, S. argues that Plato sublimates writing and rhetoric similarly. In winning his way to this ideal of symmetrical, philosophic loving and writing, Plato was able to avoid his teacher's "writerly and pederastic abstinence" (p. 212), and could produce writ- ings in good conscience, knowing they would be controlled, protected, and respon- sibly taken care of in the Academy. Readers will have to judge whether this son who neither leaves home nor re- places the father is an idealization of Plato's or S.'s, but here they will be engaged

by the largest concern of Phrasikleia, which is to offer an historically informed analysis of our own models of reading. S. argues that we are now trappedbetween the unacceptable alternatives of constraining readers to be servile instruments of the text-whose only duty is to realize what is there without adding to it (as in

480 in which 6

problematic if

e ypdvacg Tov dvv?io(v)Ta

conceived as servile, passive,

pwog,X6yo;, and writing, the Phaedrus. S.'s very un-Derridean

k6yo0-a

at&6epaaT{ia is

transformedfrom a contest

372372

BOOKBOOK REVIEWSREVIEWS

"faithful"or

"faithful"or "competent"readers)-or

"competent"readers)-or

of

super-readers-as

of elevating them into super-readers-as

elevating

them into

in

in

the formula "to read is to write." His

the formula "to read is to write." His history traces the ancient roots of the former

view

aggrandizing alternative to

aggrandizing

the latter, reconciling reader and text into equal and active subjects taking part in

the

in

one and the same search for truth.

one and the same search for truth.

view and his

history

traces the ancient roots of the former

and active

alternative to

subjects taking part

and his reading of the Phaedrus proposes a less

a less

reading

of the Phaedrus

reader and text

proposes

into

equal

latter,

reconciling

I

I

must

must

repeat that

repeat

that summary cannotdo

summary cannotdo justice

justice

to this

to this close,

close, complex,

complex,

and

and searching

searching

The

argument. The

argument.

disagreements expressed above are tributeto a book that is always

a

command of

a discreetly deployed command of

always

disagreements expressed

above are tributeto a book that is

discreetly deployed

clear

clear and

and compels

compels

engagement; supported by

engagement; supported by

scholarship, S.'s wide reading and eye for significant detail illuminate as often as

scholarship, S.'s wide reading and eye for significant

detail illuminate as often as

they provoke questions. Even if one declines to follow S. in all his speculations,

speculations,

they provoke questions.

Even if one declines to follow

S. in all his

Phrasikleia is a

a

texts.

texts.

Phrasikleia

is

rewarding, patient treatment of

rewarding, patient

treatment of

many fascinating

many fascinating and important

important

and

Andrew Ford

Andrew Ford

Princeton

University

Princeton University

Choes and Anthesteria:

Choes and Anthesteria:

Athenian

Athenian

Ann Arbor: The

Ann Arbor: The University of

of

end. $37.50.

end. $37.50.

University

Iconography

Iconography

and Ritual. By

and Ritual. By RICHARDHAMILTON.

RICHARDHAMILTON.

at

Michigan Press,

Michigan Press, 1992. Pp. xv + 266; 18 pls. at

1992.

Pp.

xv

+

266;

18

pls.

Richard Hamilton, Paul

Richard

Paul

Hamilton,

has written a

Shorey Professor of Greek at Bryn Mawr, has written a

Shorey

Professor of Greek at

Bryn Mawr,

book thatis three quite different things. It is a study of the natureof the Attic festival

of the natureof the Attic festival

of the Anthesteria; it is an attempt to establish a new methodfor interpretingimages

of the Anthesteria; it is an

book thatis three quite different things. It is a study

attempt to establish a new methodfor interpretingimages

on Attic vases; and it is a study of the relationship between literary and visual evi-

dominate

dence on a

dence on a given subject in late fifth-century Athens. The last two subjects dominate

asked here and

the book, and H. is disarming in his admission that "the questions asked here and

the

the method employed have been, to my mind, as important as the results" (p. 146).

on Attic

fifth-century Athens.

vases;

and it is a

in

study

late

of the

relationship

between

literary

and visual evi-

(p.

146).

given subject

and H. is

The last two

questions

subjects

book,

disarming

have

been,

in his admission that "the

to

my mind,

as

important

the method

employed

as the results"

The evidence for the Anthesteria comprises literary testimonia and vase

The evidence for the Anthesteria

comprises literary testimonia and vase paint-

paint-

ings. H. includes eighty-one texts (Pickard-Cambridge DFA includes only thirty-

said to

seven) and references to images on more than 800 Attic oinochoai (type 3), said to

of

be the

be the shape of the wine pitcher (Xo??;plural X6aE) from which the second day of

of the

the festival took its

the festival took its name, Choes. He begins with a catalogue and analysis of the

seven)

ings.

only thirty-

H. includes

eighty-one

texts

(Pickard-Cambridge DFA

includes

and references to

shape

of the wine

name,

images

on more than 800 Attic oinochoai

(type 3),

pitcher (Xo??;plural

Choes. He

begins

X6aE) from which the second

with a

catalogue

and

analysis

day

literary evidence.

literary

The Greek texts are included in appendix 1. H. is rigorously empirical in his re-

The Greek texts are included in

appendix 1. H. is rigorously empirical in his re-

evidence. The testimonia are

The

testimonia are given

given

in

in

translation, many

translation, many for

for the first time.

the first time.

evaluation of this material.He concludes that there is virtually no literary evidence

for several

holy marriage,

for several prominent elements usually associated with the festival: holy marriage,

evaluation of this material.He concludes that there is

virtually no literary evidence

prominent

elements

usually

associated with the festival:

on children. On the other hand, he

mummers, swinging, Katagogia, and emphasis on children. On the other hand, he

mummers, swinging, Katagogia,

and

emphasis

shows that there is evidence for elements frequently ignored: choral performances

and

to teachers,

and spectacle at the Chytroi, public sacrifice at the Choes, pay or gifts to teachers,

shows that there is evidence for elements

frequently ignored: choral performances

spectacle

at the

Chytroi, public

sacrifice at the Choes,

pay

or

gifts

and "the

(p. 61).

and "the possibility that the Chytroi was on the same day as the Choes" (p. 61).

possibility

that the

Chytroi

was on the same

day

as the Choes"

The

The

that

assumption that

assumption

images

images

on a

on

a

particulartype

particulartype

Attic

of Attic

of

red-figure oinochoe

red-figure

are

oinochoe are

to be associated with the Anthesteriaunderlies much thathas been writtenaboutthe

to be associated with the Anthesteriaunderlies much thathas been writtenaboutthe

of the

festival during this century. H. reviews the scholarship on the iconography of the

3

choes in chapter 3, but he does not directly address the question of why the type 3

choes in

Calling at-

at-

festival

during

this

century.

H. reviews the

directly

of

the

scholarship

address the

on the

question

the

iconography

of

why

the

chapter 3,

was

but he does not

the

choes

type

oinochoe was identified as the choes of the Anthesteriain the first

oinochoe

identified as

Anthesteriain

first place.

place. Calling

tention to the significant differences in size among the more than 800 surviving

tention to the

surviving

significant

differences in

size

among

the more than 800

and small

vases of this shape he defines 15 cm. as the dividing line between large and small

vases of this

shape

he defines

15 cm. as the

dividing

line between

large