Sense and sensibility: the experience of poikilia in archaic and classical greek thought



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This dissertation comprises a study of ancient aesthetics and sensory experience by focusing on the concept of poikilia in archaic and classical Greek literature. As a term that characterizes a seemingly disparate array of phenomena (ranging from textiles and armor to speech and music), an analysis of the different ways that ancient authors use the terminology of poikilia creates a panoptic perspective on how the perceptual experiences of these different media were thought to converge and diverge. Moreover, this work reveals that close attention to aesthetic terminology provides access to the complex and multivalent character of ancient sensory experience. I demonstrate in this dissertation that poikilia encompasses a diverse but coherent range of aesthetic sensibilities, and that these attitudes reflect the different sensations and affects that were thought to accompany the perception of poikilia. By taking an interdisciplinary approach that combines traditional philological methods with theories drawn from philosophy and the social sciences, my dissertation illuminates the existence of sensory practices (culturally contingent ways of using the senses and interpreting sensory data) that account for the wide range of connotations associated with the term poikilia from the earliest sources onward.