Pindar’s Verbal Art: An Ethnographic Study of Epinician Style

  Wells, James Bradley. 2010. Pindar's Verbal Art: An Enthnographic Study of Epinician Style. Hellenic Studies Series 40. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.


I first arrived at Pindar via Gerard Manley Hopkins, and it was undoubtedly due to my anxiety over lyric influence that I one day read Olympian 1 in Greek when I should have been doing coursework at the University of Missouri, where the Department of Classical Studies had taken the risk of admitting me to its graduate program on the strength of my only-just-self-taught know-ledge of ancient Greek. To my teachers there—Cathy Callaway, Victor Estevez (in memoriam), John Miles Foley, whose influence is ampler than documentation and bibliography make known, Dan Hooley, Gene Lane (in memoriam), Susan Langdon, Lawrence Okamura, Charles Saylor, David Schenker, and Barbara Wallach—I extend my deepest gratitude.

It might be a thrill—I would not know about this—to write a book that shoots across the sky from the perimeter of the universe, but given the epistemological ramifications of dialogue and situated practice (ontology as emergent), this project is the product of more mappable and, for that reason, more meaningful influences and support. I selected my book’s title in homage to Richard Bauman’s Verbal Art as Performance. My study of epinician speech and performance really began in graduate seminars that I took with him at Indiana University, and he has remained an advocate for my philology of Pindaric vernacular. When others expressed concern about my emerging research interest in a “too theoretical” approach to a “fringe” author, William Hansen, my dissertation adviser at Indiana University, encouraged the work that has culminated in the publication of this book. Richard Martin has given generously of his time to answer questions, to read drafts, and to advise, in addition to being a model of the kind of classical philology that I have attempted to pursue.

I would like to thank Mike Smith of Bloomington, Indiana, and friends of the Smith family, who have helped me in more than documentable ways: Jeff Ehman, Jon Fitch, W. Harvey Hegarty, James McNamara, Scott Owens, and Ken Pattillo.

More debts of gratitude. When I was on the fence about the fitness and timing of pursuing this book, the encouragement of Diane Rayor and Sarah Fer-rario got me to the tipping point. My colleagues at Hamilton College, Barbara Gold, Amy Gowans, Shelley Haley, Chaise LaDousa, Nancy Rabinowitz, and Carl Rubino, steadied my sense of purpose through the course of completing this project. Others who have helped me in various ways, at various times include David Branscome, William Caraher, Noelle Zeiner Carmichael, Edwin Cole, Georgia Duerst-Lahti, Rebecca Edwards, Chris Giroux, Don Giroux, Colman Grabert, Carol King, Julie Langford, William Levitan, Ben Lockerd, James McDonough, Nigel Nicholson, Elizabeth Richey, Brett Robbins, Yvette Rollins, and John Allen Wyatt (in memoriam).

A special thanks is due to the Center for Hellenic Studies. It has been a pleasure to work with Casey Dué, Leonard Muellner, Jill Curry Robbins, and Noel Spencer. Their guidance and collaboration have effected my manuscript’s metamorphosis into a book. I alone am responsible for any stylistic infelicities and other deficiencies that might remain in the final product, but credit goes to Jill Curry Robbins and Noel Spencer for what does work. I would also like to thank everyone else, though unknown to me, who had some role to play in this project, including the anonymous reader of my manuscript. And although his influence is ubiquitously evident throughout my book, I would here like to acknowledge the prodigious service and scholarship of Gregory Nagy, Director of the Center of Hellenic Studies.

Stacey Giroux Wells read sections of my manuscript at various stages, including a very careful reading of the final version of the entire manuscript, and, to the extent that my prose has developed more awareness of the existence of an audience of English-readers than it did before her intervention, she is responsible for the upgrade. Add to this that she is a medical anthropologist, and classicists who know just how much more onerous than Pindar Pindar scholarship can be will appreciate that hers is help far exceeding any call to duty. But more important is that the time during which I have been writing about Pindar happens to coincide with the best sweet-spot of my life, when we have partnered our way through Ph.D. ambitions, the academic vagabondage of five consecutive annual summer moves, more unpublished manuscripts than published, and, among many other things, the adoption of one stray cat that, magically it almost seemed, turned into the adoption of three.