By "literary criticism" we usually mean a self-conscious act involving the technical and aesthetic appraisal, by individuals, of autonomous works of art. Aristotle and Plato come to mind. The word "social" does not. Yet, as this book shows, it should--if, that is, we wish to understand where literary criticism as we think of it today came from. Andrew Ford offers a new understanding of the development of criticism, demonstrating that its roots stretch back long before the sophists to public commentary on the performance of songs and poems in the preliterary era of ancient Greece. He pinpoints when and how, later in the Greek tradition than is usually assumed, poetry was studied as a discipline with its own principles and methods. The Origins of Criticism complements the usual, history-of-ideas approach to the topic precisely by treating criticism as a social as well as a theoretical activity. With unprecedented and penetrating detail, Ford considers varying scholarly interpretations of the key texts discussed. Examining Greek discussions of poetry from the late sixth century B.C. through the rise of poetics in the late fourth, he asks when we first can recognize anything like the modern notions of literature as imaginative writing and of literary criticism as a special knowledge of such writing.
Serving as a monumental preface to Aristotle's Poetics, this book allows readers to discern the emergence, within the manifold activities that might be called criticism, of the historically specific discourse on poetry that has shaped subsequent Western approaches to literature.
Andrew Ford is Professor of Classics at Princeton University. He is the author of "Homer: The Poetry of the Past" and of numerous articles on Greek literature and literary history.
PREFACE ix ABBREVIATIONS xiii INTRODUCTION Defining Criticism from Homer to Aristotle 1 PART I ARCHAIC ROOTS OF CLASSICAL AESTHETICS 23 ONE Table Talkand Symposium 25 TWO Xenophanes and the "Ancient Quarrel" 46 THREE Allegory and the Traditions of Epic Interpretation 67 PART II: THE INVENTION OF POETRY 91 FOUR Song and Artifact: Simonidean Monuments 93 FIVE Singer and Craftsman in Pindar and Bacchylides 113 SIX The Origin of the Word "Poet" 131 PART III: TOWARD A THEORY OF POETRY 159 SEVEN Materialist Poetics: Democritus and Gorgias 161 EIGHT Literary Culture and Democracy: Poets and Teachers in Classical Athens 188 NINE Literary Culture in Plato's Republic :The Sound of Ideology 209 PART IV LITERARY THEORY IN THE FOURTH CENTURY 227 TEN The Invention of Literature: Theories of Prose and the Theory of Poetry 229 ELEVEN Laws of Poetry: Genre and the Literary System 250 TWELVE The Rise of the Critic: Poetic Contests from Homer to Aristotle 272 EPILOGUE 294 BIBLIOGRAPHY 297 INDEX OF PASSAGES ISCUSSED 331