chapter  3
42 Pages

Playing The Literature Game: A Public and Collective Norm

The idea of a public game - the revealing of 'oratory', 'tragedy', 'comedy', 'history', through the activity and peculiarities of its practitioners - soon gave way to the notion of privacy familiar to the Romantics and to us, namely, that of the utterly private idiosyncrasies of individuals. There seems to have been a retreat inwards accompanying the conquest of Greece by the Macedonians. The fourth-century Hellenistic poet Callimachus wrote: 'I hate the cycle poems [epics], and view with no joy a road which carries many men here and there . . . All public things disgust me.' Under the Macedonians in Greece and, later on, in Rome under the decaying Republic and the Empire, the public games of statehood were being played

for the citizens, not by them. The experts in statecraft took over from ordinary people, and public participation in government gave way to government as a 'spectator sport', with an audience watching the heroes of civil war and military anarchy battle it out. The nature of the game itself was settled by impersonal 'professional' authority. Style was to become the sum of the ways in which an individual player might play it. The Roman distinction between facta and

Since that time stylistic study has had two main objectives: to describe the nature of both the public games of style and of private styles.