Parmenidean Irony

Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh (2002)

Numerous studies in the past fifty years have shown that Parmenides made extensive use of Homeric vocabulary in the composition of his poem. These studies, however, have generally regarded the Homeric touches as embellishments, and as not having significance for the meaning of the poem. This disposition apparently arose from a long-standing belief that ancient sources were unanimous in condemning Parmenides' poetic skills, and, perhaps, from an eagerness to get beyond the poetry so as to grapple directly with the philosophic content of the poem. ;This dissertation demonstrates, first, that the ancient sources have, in fact, been misunderstood, and that the consensus of the ancients was that Parmenides was not only a capable poet, but one of exceptional skill. Next, it goes on to explore the traditional uses of a large number of the Homeric words in the poem, both revealing a number of passages to which Parmenides appears to be specifically alluding, and demonstrating that many of the words of the poem are traditionally used with ironic force. By incorporating these allusions and ironic meanings into one's understanding of the poem, one finds that Parmenides was not a simplistic dogmatist, but a complex thinker concerned with the dichotomy between physics and metaphysics, and the implications of our inability to reconcile the two. ;The dissertation also includes a biography of Parmenides, an integration of Parmenides' poem into the history of thought in his era, a critique of modern interpretations of the poem, and in-depth discussions of many passages and words from Homer, Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and related traditional poetry, as well as insights into Plato's works, especially his Sophist, Timaeus, and Parmenides. The dissertation demonstrates a method for the close reading of a text and can serve as a resource for those interested in exploring the use of allusion in ancient Greek and Roman poetry and philosophy
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