Hesiod's Verbal Craft: Studies in Hesiod's Conception of Language and its Ancient Reception

November 1, 2020
Hesiod's Verbal Craft: Studies in Hesiod's Conception of Language and its Ancient Reception

This novel, ground-breaking study aims to define Hesiod's placein early Greek intellectual history by exploring his conception oflanguage and the ways in which it represents reality. Divided intothree parts, it addresses a network of issues related to etymology,word-play, and semantics, and examines how these contribute to thedevelopment of the argument and the concepts of knowledge andauthority in the Theogony and the Works and Days.Part I demonstrates how much we can learn about the poet's craftand his relation to the poetic tradition if we read his etymologiescarefully, while Part II takes the discussion of the 'correctnessof language' further - this correctness does not amount to anaïvely assumed one-to-one correspondence between signifier andsignified. Correct names and correct language are 'true' becausethey reveal something particular about the concept or entity named,as numerous examples show; moreimportantly, however, correct language is imitative of reality, inthat language becomes more opaque, ambiguous, and indeterminate aswe delve deeper into the exploration of the condicio humana and theambiguities and contradictions that characterize it in the Worksand Days. Part III addresses three momentsof Hesiodic reception, with individual chapters comparing Hesiod'simplicit theory of language and cognition with the more explicitstatements found in early mythographers and genealogists,demonstrating the importance of Hesiod's poetry for Plato'setymological project in the Cratylus, and discussing the ways inwhich some ancient philologists treat Hesiod as one of their own.What emerges is a new and invaluable perspective on a hithertounder-explored chapter in early Greeklinguistic thought which ascertains more clearly Hesiod's place inGreek intellectual history as a serious thinker who introduced someof the questions that occupied early Greek philosophy.