Echoing Hylas. Metapoetics in Hellenistic and Roman Poetry
12 / 2008 - 12 / 2010
Although metapoetical interpretations of Hellenistic and Roman poetry have been very fruitful in recent years, the subject of implicit metapoetics is beset by confusion and controversy. In his dissertation "Echoing Hylas: a metapoetical reading of the Hylas myth", the researcher tries to clarify the workings of metapoetics in classical antiquity by means of a diachronic case study. The myth about the boy Hylas, who is pulled into a well by infatuated nymphs, is in many respects very susceptible for metapoetical interpretation. For example, the poets dealing with Hylas attempt to connect the name of the boy etymologically with "hyle" ("wood"), and terms for wood in Greek and Latin are used metaphorically to denote poetic subject matter. Various versions of the story have been written in classical antiquity, in which the poets symbolically deal with the position of their work in literary tradition, using metapoetical metaphors to react to their predecessors. The diachronic approach shows that metapoetics is a flexible phenomenon: ideas about poetry change over time, and Roman poets such as Propertius and Valerius Flaccus even interprete their Hellenistic models in ways that reflect their own ideas about poetry, rather than those of their predecessors. This insight is a possible explanation for the divergent, generalizing opinions concerning the metapoetical dimension of classical poetry.