Critical Moments in Classical Literature is a curious book; deeply learned, elegantly written, and filled with subtle observations on a vast array of texts, but also somewhat diffuse, elusive, and in the end frustrating. On the face of it, the subtitle, Studies in the Ancient View of Literature and its Uses, is a good description of the book’s six chapters, each focused on a text constituting a ‘critical moment’ in ancient literary criticism: (1) Aristophanes’ Frogs, (2) Euripides’ Cyclops, (4) Dionysius of Halicarnassus’ On Imitation, (5) Longinus’ On the Sublime, and (6) Plutarch’s How the Young Man Should Study Poetry. The one exception is (3) ‘Comic Moments’, which looks at Plutarch’s Comparison of Aristophanes and Menander and Horace’s Satires. Upon closer inspection, however, the chapters range much more widely than the titles suggest and reference a far more expansive roster of writers: not only Plato and Aristotle (as one might expect), but also the author of the On Style attributed to ‘Demetrius’, the Homeric scholia, Apollonius of Rhodes, Aulus Gellius, Quintilian, and many others. Moreover, the frequent cross-references to critics who are the focus of other chapters (especially Dionysius, ‘Longinus’, and Plutarch) creates the sense of a densely interwoven network of literary critical ideas.
Kim, L. (2010). [Review of the book Critical moments in classical literature, by R. Hunter]. Hermathena, 189, 131-135.