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Soliciting Darkness

Soliciting Darkness

Pindar, Obscurity, and the Classical Tradition

John T. Hamilton

ISBN 9780674012578

Publication date: 01/01/2004

Hailed by Horace and Quintilian as the greatest of Greek lyric poets, Pindar has always enjoyed a privileged position in the so-called classical tradition of the West. Given the intense difficulty of the poetry, however, Pindaric interpretation has forever grappled with the perplexing dilemma that one of the most influential poets of antiquity should prove to be so dark.

In discussing both poets and scholars from a broad historical span, with special emphasis on the German legacy of genius, Soliciting Darkness investigates how Pindar’s obscurity has been perceived and confronted, extorted and exploited. As such, this study addresses a variety of pressing issues, including the recovery and appropriation of classical texts, problems of translation, representations of lyric authenticity, and the possibility or impossibility of a continuous literary tradition. The poetics of obscurity that emerges here suggests that taking Pindar to be an incomprehensible poet may not simply be the result of an insufficient or false reading, but rather may serve as a wholly adequate judgment.


  • Hamilton ranges with impressive breadth over the history of the European reception of Pindar, represented by scholars such as the great Prussian philologist Wilamowitz and literary admirers from Goethe to Hölderlin… Hamilton, however, insists that Pindar’s darkness, as well as constituting an integral part of his reception by poets, wholly resists scholarly efforts to illuminate it, and should be seen (as it were) for what it is.

    —Armand D’Angour, Times Literary Supplement


  • John T. Hamilton is Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Department of Comparative Literature