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  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: July 2009

4 - The poetic interface


The claim of the following chapter is twofold, looking at how poetic practices are (i) complementary to those of the exact sciences, and (ii) parallel to them. Section 4.1 makes the case for (i) complementarity. It shows how Greek poets turned to scientific concepts and contents, weaving science into their poetry just as the scientists were weaving poetry into their science. Sections 4.2–4.3 make the case for (ii) parallelism. Section 4.2 takes a central example of the practices of mythography in Hellenistic poetry as a starting-point for an analysis of the familiar role of “erudition” in this poetry – now considered in light of the scientific practices discussed in this book. Section 4.3 broadens the discussion to look at the poetic parallels to the scientific practices seen throughout this book, as a whole: the narrative surprise and the mosaic text. Of course, the complementarity and parallelism are tightly connected. Section 4.4 offers a brief summary, with some tentative conclusions.

The Hellenistic world was, for generations, the least intensively studied of all ancient periods, its culture alien and uninviting for classicists inspired by Greek glory or by Roman grandeur. With changes in contemporary taste, as well as with the overall explosion of academic writing, considerable and sophisticated studies of Hellenistic civilization have appeared over the last couple of decades. Even this scholarship, however – as is not surprising – concentrates on Hellenistic literature to the exclusion of science.

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