Sunday, May 31, 2009

Note on ψυχή

I had never noticed before that ψυχή is used of the butterfly or moth. See Arist.HA.551a14, Thphr.HP.2.4.4, and Plu.2.636c.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


This is a principle as formulated by Anne Lebeck in The Oresteia: A Study in Language and Structure, 1971. It is not to say that every interpretation is correct, but simply that ambiguity is a powerful tool for a poet. Pindar scholars would do well to keep this in mind.

"It should be a basic principle in interpreting Aeschylus that when language and syntax are most difficult, the poet has compressed the greatest number of meanings into the smallest possible space. Pursuing the customary methods of classical scholarship one is sometimes tempted to treat ambiguity as if the author were at fault, as if the clarity of normal diction were beyond his grasp. Yet that ambiguity characteristic of Aeschylus is not easy to achieve; it comes about neither by accident nor inability, but by design. Commentaries on the Oresteia at times degenerate into arguments about the "right" interpretation of passages where wording is enigmatic and meaning multiple. The following approach is here pursued: when argument arises over meaning, the statement that claims to be exclusively right is categorically wrong. The philologist should not restrict himself to a single interpretation of such passages but should give free rein to all possibilities and associations, ultimately selecting as many as form part of a larger pattern and contribute to the meaning of the total work. The linguistic devices by which ambiguity is effected should be analyzed and the significance of the passage then interpreted in the light of its obscurity."