Dance Descriptions and Ekphraseis in Greek Archaic Poetry

Sarah Muller Moaty

My project is to apprehend the aesthetic purpose of dance descriptions in archaic Greek poetry, by studying the relation between poetic dance descriptions and ekphrasis - a concept that can be understood as a vivid description, or, in a narrower apprehension, as a literary description of an artwork. I will focus on twelve poem excerpts, from Homeric poetry to the 5th century B.C.
Some of them are dance representations within an artwork’s description. I will study their interactions with the artwork’s interface: how does the text highlight the difficulty of painting or sculpting a choreography? Is there an emulation between text and art in the arduous exercise of dance’s description?
Concerning the broader understanding of ekphrasis, exhaustive descriptions do not seem to suffice in making the dance vivid, and the poems establish imaginative processes for their audience. I will underline these processes and compare their use in one text to another.

My corpus also includes danced poetry describing dance. How does the imaginative representation superpose the performance?
By exploring the complex interweavement between a lost object described and its description, this project is thus a contribution to ancient dance, ancient poetry, and aesthetic studies.



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