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Criticizing Contemporaries

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Chapter Summary

It is important to emphasize that literary criticism is rarely a question of aesthetic judgment alone; the judgment of taste is always embedded in the societal values and interests of the community in which it is formed. Most Alexandrian poetry, like a good deal of Hellenistic poetry in general, was in all likelihood encouraged by a court and meant to please it. This chapter focuses on aggressive competition (particularly Callimachus is notorious for his polemical persona). It discusses the tradition of literary competition and the "Muses' birdcage" of the Hellenistic era. Elitist avant-garde poetry created for a select public would presumably obtain cultural capital as well as monetary capital, or at least the material benefits of royal patronage. This makes the logic of the Alexandrian Field of Cultural Production somewhat different from Bourdieu's example. The chapter discusses what the supposed issues for the quarrel could be between Apollonius and Callimachus.

Keywords: Alexandrian Muses' Birdcage; Apollonius; Bourdieu's sociological theory; Callimachus; cultural production; Hellenistic literary criticism; poetic competition



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