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Dissertation defense: Stephen Sansom
THE POETICS OF STYLE IN THE SHIELD OF HERACLES: SPEECH, EKPHRASIS, AND SOUND
This dissertation assesses the style of the Hesiodic Shield of Heracles and its significance in the Greek hexameter tradition. Since antiquity, the style of the Shield has been the lynchpin of its reception and the test by which it has been included or excluded from the Hesiodic corpus. This dissertation addresses the poem’s style in two parts. Part one uses quantitative means to identify characteristic features of the poem’s diction, narrative, and traditional composition. Part two then interprets three remarkable elements in the Shield, namely, its character speech, ekphrasis, and thematics of sound. For each element, the Shield does two things: it conforms to Hesiodic style while progressing a Hesiodic program. Chapter two shows that, as in Hesiod's didactic poetry, the Shield’s speeches ensure compliance and suppress verbal dissent. Chapter three outlines how the Shield’s ekphrasis promotes Zeus' cosmos through an act of philosophical imagination. Chapter four charts the soundscape of the Shield, which matches the harmony and thunder of the Theogony and Catalogue of Women but now soundtracks the exploits of Zeus’ son, Heracles. The conclusion synthesizes these findings by looking to the poem’s use of voice as an instrument of Zeus’ divine order. This dissertation thus argues for the centrality of style to our understanding of the Shield, its composition, and its position in early Greek hexameter poetry.