Among this variety of topics, more specific concerns, such as ring-composition, thematically link various articles. Taken as a whole the diversity of topics addressed and techniques employed emphasizes, as Foley whose contribution both serves as a general assessment of the current state of the field and introduces each paper notes, the originality and sophistication of more recent developments in studies of orality.
Foley's "What's in a Sign? The very term "oral" has proven more elusive than once thought. Recent studies show that cultures are not either oral or literate, but that performers and audiences employ a spectrum of communicative strategies, some associated more with performance, some with texts. Commentators are thus now more sensitive to differences between one culture and another, realizing that no one model can be generalized to account for all other traditions.
The Parry-Lord South Slavic model, based solely on Moslem epic, cannot be used to gauge every other culture's products. Foley thus argues that we need to fashion a poetics that matches the actual variegated complexity of the various oral traditions. For Foley such a poetics is rooted in increased attention paid to tradition in particular. A better awareness of the specific tradition which produced a particular performance is paramount because tradition "bypasses the work's external appearance With better awareness of a specific tradition, a formulaic phrase such as "swift-footed Achilleus" becomes a key that unlocks traditional realities and serves as an index to the tradition.
Foley then offers five working proverbs, a tentative basis for a more flexible oral poetics, and proceeds to view the other contributors' offerings through them. His proverbs include recognizing that an oral tradition works like a language, and "Artis causa, not metri causa", addressing a further limitation of the original Parry-Lord model, which too often privileged form over meaning.
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If one has not kept up with Foley's later books, his essay here serves as a convenient short-form introduction to his recent works. Bakker's "How Oral is Oral Composition? Hence we can more profitably oppose "oral" not to "written" but to "literate. In terms of the medium in which a discourse is captured we can again envision a continuum whose extremes are marked from left to right by transcription and composition.
Proceeding to revisit Lord in terms of these distinctions, Bakker finds that Lord's notion of "oral composition" can be seen as a conflation of the two extremes of his own two continua, a perspective rooted in the medium in which a discourse is captured, rather than taking into account the conception which governed its composition. Bakker then argues that contemporary Homerists, due to Lord's theories, often stake out opposing positions, oralists at one end, and those treating Homeric epic solely as text at the other, positions which are themselves "anachronistic and ill-taken Arguing that writing may well have played some role in the epics as we have them, he suggests, however, that "this writing was far removed indeed from writing in our sense of written composition, and has to be situated at the left-hand extreme of the scale mentioned above Bakker would reorient our focus, then, away from other concepts also rooted in a written, literate, conception of language, including the idea of sentence as the basic unit.
Instead he argues for what linguists call the intonation unit as of direct relevance for the study of spoken discourse. Usually four to seven words long, and a complete syntactic unit, an intonation unit of ordinary speech, suggests Bakker, becomes the metrical unit of that special, enhanced poetic speech which is Homeric epic. Since Homeric epic is a text whose conception lies in being performed, the intonation unit offers us a means to investigate certain of its effects without imposing a literacy bias. He proceeds to analyze Iliad 6.
As with Foley's contribution, Bakker's can serve as a succinct introduction for those who have not kept up with his recent work.
Minchin's "Describing and Narrating in Homer's Iliad " analyzes the twenty some occasions, rarely more than eight lines in length, in which the narrator lingers over the description of a particular item. Discerning a five-item "description format" underlying most passages, she argues that, instead of seeing them as digressive, the poet thereby alerts his audience to a significant event associated with the item described, providing a moment of narrative cohesion. The descriptions prolong a dramatic moment and imply the significance of those scenes in which they occur.
By better following the techniques employed in such descriptions we increase our understanding of the devices an improvising oral poet employs to engage his audience and make his story more effective. The five-term description format are: 1.
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The history element can serve a dual function, telling more about the item's owner, or more about the situation in which he now finds himself. Minchin compiles a table pp. She concludes with an analysis of how the description of Achilleus' shield largely conforms to the five-item format but violates it through its extreme length, transgressing the usual economy expected in descriptions in oral poetry.
What emerges as most unique against the established pattern is the account of the images worked onto the shield, which is at times descriptive, at other times narrative. Minchin argues that a poet working in an oral tradition is more at home in narrative, hence the occasional reversion in this exceptional description. She further suggests that the shield passage serves as an occasion for the poet's self-promotion, highlighting certain of his particular skills. Nimis' "Ring-composition and Linearity in Homer" interprets ring-composition as based in the dynamic process of oral composition, as opposed to Keith Stanley's recent study of the Iliad which concludes the structures are evidence of a literacy-based style of composition The Shield of Achilles.
The model which Nimis then constructs, influenced by discourse analysis, seeks to explore ring-like patterns more as signs of the poet's habits of performance, rather than of what he means. Like Bakker, Nimis is primarily interested in viewing Homeric composition as a special form of speech rather than as a fixed literary text. Where Stanley sees evidence of careful composition typical of a literate conception, Nimis instead sees symmetry naturally resulting from the performing poet's interaction with his audience.
Nimis notes that discourse analysts, when analyzing stories embedded within larger narratives, classify initial stages as "involvement," a means by which speakers ensure their story gets a hearing, and similarly, classify the means by which the end of an embedded story will have an exit. Transitional entrances and exits thus naturally lead to ring-like structures, argues Nimis, which do not serve to focus attention on a central element but rather serve to clarify the links between successive textual units.
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The resulting symmetry is thus a byproduct of the manner in which units are integrated into the overall flow of a discourse rather than evidence of intricate artistic design. Nimis applies his approach to several passages in the Iliad to demonstrate new interpretations thereby obtained. He suggests that several passages, of which 5.
Similarly for 2. He closes with a sustained structural analysis of Book 8, opposed to Stanley's analysis of the same in Shield , reiterating that the symmetries do not serve to focus attention on a central element but are a secondary effect of the way the flow of discourse is interrupted to restate or reemphasize something.
Scodel's "Odysseus' Evasiveness and the Audience of the Odyssey " considers the narrative problem of why Odysseus goes to such great lengths to avoid disclosing his identity on Skheria. Arguing that his evasion is unmotivated to a degree unusual for the poem, Scodel first notes that similar behavior is motivated on Ithaka. Since oral narratives sometimes privilege theme over internal motivation, she briefly raises the possibility that the extensive thematic parallels between the situations on Ithaka and Skheria offer an explanation.
However, she is more interested in exploring realism or verisimilitude as factors, as well as the Homeric narrator's occasional preference for avoiding leading his audience along the more predictable path. The narrator creates several false expectations in the audience in this section, not only in Odysseus' evasion, but in Arete's surprising failure to answer his initial supplication.
A further factor she explores is to what extent the poet relies on his audience's prior familiarity with the story. Briefly reviewing explanations posited by previous scholars, including the suggestion that Odyssey fears his actual account would not be believed! Central to her argument is the role prophecy plays in the poem.
In his encounters not only with Polyphemos but also with Kirke Odysseus finds them in possession of prophecies predicting his arrival, but in each case they are unable to act on the prophecies until they encounter him. As the same motifs now enfold on Skheria, since they, too, possess an ancient prophecy which, though not naming Odysseus, applies to him, Scodel thus locates Odysseus' evasion: he is anxious about possible prophecies they may have about him.
Kullmann's "Homer and Historical Memory" attempts to classify and quantify how much of the information in the Iliad is historical. Distinguishing first between communicative memory family traditions and historical consciousness awareness of relics and artifacts and written traditions , Kullmann argues that its historical core should be regarded as relatively small.
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Subscribing to the principle of homeostasis, which asserts that "in an oral society the tradition is always adjusted and assimilated to the conditions of the present by eliminating everything that is no longer relevant" 98 , Kullmann argues that the historical memory underlying the poem does not go back much farther than 80 years. As early Greek epic is fixated largely upon the Mycenaean period, much of its content is based on historical consciousness of the ruins of the palaces of Mycenae and Troy. Compiling various anachronisms, including the absence of most of the towns of Asia Minor from the Book 2 catalogue which suggests awareness that Aeolians and Ionians immigrated to Asia only after the Trojan War and the mention of the Heracleidae taken as a reminiscence of the Dorian migration , which took place long after the destruction of the palaces at Mycenae, Tiryns and Pylos, Kullmann argues that the principle of homeostasis is valid for all secondary features of the poem.
Finding occasional motifs in common with those in the Old Testament, he concludes that their presence reflects contact between the cultures dating from the time that the alphabet was taken over from the Phoenicians. He further analyzes gaps between the poem's depictions and the historical record in additional respects, arguing that many of the poem's dominant portrayals are based on the situations of the poet's own time, projected into the past. These include the poet's sympathy with the nobility, which must, argues Kullmann, be based on the aristocrats of his own area. The loose coalition and occasional panhellenism depicted in the poem corresponds to the political situation of the poet's own time.
The individualism of the Greek leaders is a further instance of the same tendency, as it conforms more closely to the striving for independence characteristic of the Greek nobility of the archaic period. He concludes by suggesting the poem's historical consciousness is rooted in three areas: 1. Consequently, the poem is neither fictional nor wholly invented, but extrapolated from relatively few remains.
Ring-composition in Early Greek Poetry and Vase-Painting," by Mackay, Harrison, and Masters, argues that exploring common ground between poetic ring-composition and certain structural devices in early Greek art has the potential to inform both fields. Since symmetry and repetition are pervasive principles in art from the geometric through the archaic periods, analysis both of the arrangement of bands of motifs on monumental geometric vases, and of the motifs within a field, reveals patterns that can be seen as visual versions of ring-composition.
A centrally-placed dominant motif is framed by matched pairs of subsidiary motifs. Their analysis suggests that the vase-painters, as oral Greek poets, thought in terms of basic theme-units, and often featured a central figure or figures, which could be elaborated by being bracketed or enclosed by pairs of other figures who are normally inward-facing, the most common pattern being A-B-C-B-A. These ring structures occasionally reveal careful manipulation of depth, as in the three planes evident in the Vatican amphora of the Dioskouroi. The authors imply further parallels between development and innovation in oral poetry and vase-painting.
Focusing on the palinopt figure, a marginal character who is earlier a standard bystander in scenes, they explore how the Painter of the Vatican Mourner recognizes the potential for conveying additional meaning by having the palinopt glance back over his shoulder as he is depicted walking out of the scene. Though he appears to be leaving the scene, he also connects it with the scene depicted on the other side. As they note, "Where development does occur in a traditional context, it generally takes the form of adaptation of existing elements to serve new purposes" Further development of the palinopt's potential is seen in how it may be used to suggest the passage of time, to lead from past to future events.
Somewhat as a Homer builds upon his inherited tradition, the best vase-painters seem to regard the traditional patterns they receive as a basis on which to build more sophisticated patterns that provoke their audiences into more complex perceptions and interpretations of their works.
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