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Marginal Voice and Erotic Discourse in Anacreon

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image of Mnemosyne

In archaic lyric poetry the expressions of erôs often provide commentary regarding the identity, cohesion, ideological parameters and value system of the aristocratic group to which the lovers belong, expressed in language of physical desirability. In the poetry of Anacreon, however, this pattern of socio-erotic interaction mediated by beauty is disrupted, as the erastês is often an older man, and the object of desire either a non-aristocrat or not a citizen at all. This distortion of the code of eligibility of both erastês and erômenos is a reflection of the new mode of interaction between the poet and his (sympotic) audience: Anacreon, being an itinerant entertainer offering his services at the courts of tyrants, is an outsider whose attachment to his listeners is incidental, and whose voice—contrary to that of his predecessors—does not express the concerns of the group outside the banquet hall. For this reason the poet adopts a marginal persona through which he safeguards his distance from the audience and is able to function in ways similar to those of Sappho when (re)performed in a sympotic setting.

Affiliations: 1: University of South Florida, College of Arts and Sciences WLE, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., CPR 107, Tampa, FL 33620 USA, Email: kantzios@usf.edu

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