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Seeing Double

Intercultural Poetics in Ptolemaic Alexandria

Susan A. Stephens (Author)

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When, in the third century B.C.E., the Ptolemies became rulers in Egypt, they found themselves not only kings of a Greek population but also pharaohs for the Egyptian people. Offering a new and expanded understanding of Alexandrian poetry, Susan Stephens argues that poets such as Callimachus, Theocritus, and Apollonius proved instrumental in bridging the distance between the two distinct and at times diametrically opposed cultures under Ptolemaic rule. Her work successfully positions Alexandrian poetry as part of the dynamic in which Greek and Egyptian worlds were bound to interact socially, politically, and imaginatively.

The Alexandrian poets were image-makers for the Ptolemaic court, Seeing Double suggests; their poems were political in the broadest sense, serving neither to support nor to subvert the status quo, but to open up a space in which social and political values could be imaginatively re-created, examined, and critiqued. Seeing Double depicts Alexandrian poetry in its proper context—within the writing of foundation stories and within the imaginative redefinition of Egypt as "Two Lands"—no longer the lands of Upper and Lower Egypt, but of a shared Greek and Egyptian culture.
List of Illustrations
List of Abbreviations

1. Conceptualizing Egypt
2. Callimachean Theogonies
3. Theocritean Regencies
4. Apollonian Cosmologies
5. The Two Lands

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Passages Cited
Susan A. Stephens is Professor of Classics at Stanford University, author of Yale Papyri in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library II (1985), and coeditor of Ancient Greek Novels: The Fragments (1995) and Didymus in Demosthenem: Commenta (1985).
“Seeing Double is necessary reading for those working on the Hellenistic period. Research libraries will also want this book.”—Jon Steffen Bruss New England Classical Journal
"This is a dramatic breakthrough in our understanding of the nature and purpose of poetic production during this outstandingly creative period."—Alan Griffiths Times Literary Supplement (TLS)
"Susan Stephens is interested in how the poetry of Callimachus, Theocritus and Apollonius reflects the Greek engagement with Egypt, and in particular with the traditions of Egyptian kingship and mythology. The exciting rediscovery through marine archaeology of Ptolemaic Alexandria means that there is currently great interest in the nature of Alexandrian culture, especially in how Greek and Egyptian elements were mixed. Stephens brings to notice important but generally neglected Greek texts (Hecataeus of Abdera, the 'Alexander Romance') and much material previously known only to Egyptologists. . . . Modern writing about colonialism is powerfully applied to the Hellenistic situation. This book will attract wide interest, and help in the gradual process of changing perceptions about the cultural life of Alexandria."—Richard Hunter, author of Theocritus and the Archaeology of Greek Poetry

"Susan Stephens' Seeing Double is the first book ever that explores comprehensively and persuasively how, in the political, social and cultural environment of Ptolemaic Egypt, the Alexandrian renewal of classical poetry leads to a new poetry. . . . In Stephens' view, the poetical dialogue between the Alexandrian poets, their intertextuality and the differences in their approaches and reactions to the colonial situation resolve the emerging duality of Greek and Egyptian cultures in a deeper intellectual unity that responds to, and reflects, the political reality."—Ludwig Koenen, author of Eine agonistische Inschrift aus Ägypten und frühptolemäische Königsfeste

"This quietly daring research sets a new standard for the interpretation of poetry in a cultural, and most importantly in a bi-cultural, context. Stephens’ exploration of Alexandrian poetry as a contact zone is a successful example of how literary interpretation can be fertilized by discontent about traditional Classics."—Alessandro Barchiesi, author of The Poet and the Prince: Ovid and Augustan Discourse and Speaking Volumes: Narrative and Intertext in Ovid and Other Latin Poets

A brilliant mastery and intersection of comparative history of literature and of theories of intertextuality and intercultural contacts make of this book a most profitable text for a larger readership than classical scholars."—Marco Fantuzzi, coauthor of Muse e Modelli: la poesia ellenistica da Alessandro Magno ad Augusto

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