Wells, James Bradley. 2010. Pindar's Verbal Art: An Enthnographic Study of Epinician Style. Hellenic Studies Series 40. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_WellsJ.Pindars_Verbal_Art.2010.
High/low, elite/popular, exclusive/inclusive—the figure of Lance Armstrong collapses such binary oppositions. As a person who has not only survived cancer but has also attained the highest achievements in the most prestigious professional cycling event in the world, his presence and, better, his touch evidently convey a healing, talismanic power for many. For many, Armstrong is an inspiration. He is also a media magnet, a high-end spokesperson, and a brand. This is certainly not the place for developing a cultural analysis of Lance Armstrong, but if one were to undertake such a project, to exclude the low, the popular, the inclusive from the Armstrong field of cultural production would betray an analytical bias that further indexes the ideological predisposition(s) of the interpreter.
While New Historicists such as Kurke, Dougherty, and Nicholson have made impressive contributions to our understanding of the cultural poetics of commemorating athletic victories in ancient Greece, the popular dimensions of epinikion remain underserved by students of Pindar. If it is true that “as a newcomer, the victory ode needed to validate itself to its diverse audience in order to be able to perform its social function” (Kurke 1991:259), then it is necessary to discover the inclusive dimensions of Pindar’s art in order to develop a well-rounded cultural poetics. Nicholson notes that fluency in the conventions of victory songs “must have restricted their reach to the elites, but it is clear from their content, as well as from the testimony that Pindar’s ode to Diagoras of Rhodes [Olympian 7] was dedicated to the temple of Lindian Athena, that they were directed to members of the victor’s city, not just his friends and clan” (2005:11).  The point is well made, but not developed further, since Nicholson’s study explores the elite interests served by the public display of victory memorials. A similar gap exists in one of Kurke’s most productive insights about ancient Greece: the talismanic quality of the victorious athlete and the “economy of kûdos,” where she defines kudos as “magical potency in battle” (1993:133; cf. Currie 2005:128–129). It would seem that the economy of kudos entails popular dimensions, since “[t]he city…rewards [the returning athlete] for his victory with a lavish reentry rite, crowns and fillets, the lifelong privilege of eating in the prytaneion, large monetary awards, special front-row seats in the theater, and sometimes a statue set up at public expense in the city or at the site of the games” (1993:141). But Kurke finally argues that “we must ground our cultural poetics in a politics and see the phenomenon of kudos as an attempt by the aristocracy to lay claim to special power within the polis” (1993:153).
This criticism of “traditional stylistics” occurs in the context of Bakhtin’s description of heteroglossia and the dialogical quality of style in the novel.  In a similar vein, I have variously argued that conventional exegesis is ill-equipped to describe the polyphonic and multivalent language of Pindar’s art: exegesis simply starts from the wrong set of questions, treating epinikion as a written form of art rather than a spoken one, privileging the referential function of language over the poetic function of language, siding with historical conjecture over and against historical practice, and, finally, treating an art form with significant popular dimensions strictly as a form of high literature. From the perspective of a practice-centered and ethnographically grounded philology, the text-artifact of Pindar’s epinikia is a record of communication occurring between the epinician composer-performer Pindar and his audience via the channel of a chorus. The study of Pindar’s epinikia then begins with the description of epinician language as a special way of speaking dedicated to epinician performance. The purpose of Pindar’s Verbal Art has been to lay the groundwork for such a performance- and practice-centered description of epinician language. On the basis of this description, I find that epinikion is a novelistic form of traditional discourse. As I have already stated, I do not claim that epinikion belongs to the genre of the novel, but that it is a mode of communicative practice that is immanently grounded in its ambient present, characterized by flux and open-endedness, and replete with parodic moments and heteroglossia, which are crucially constitutive features of the novel for Bakhtin.