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[Synoptic-L] Explanations for Orality

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic-L In Response To: John Poirier On: The Derico SBL Paper From: Bruce John suggests four possible reasons for the tendencies observed by several in
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 12, 2004
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      To: Synoptic-L
      In Response To: John Poirier
      On: The Derico SBL Paper
      From: Bruce

      John suggests four possible reasons for the tendencies observed by several
      in the Derico paper (which I have not personally consulted): (1) delayed
      effects of the orality paradigm, in a field other than that in which the
      orality paradigm first arose, (2) reaction against micro-explanations in
      present text models, (3) preference for more "earthy" model of Gospel
      transmission, and (4) conservative theological reaction; preferring
      independent rather than interdependent traditions.

      Based on the parallel in classical Sinology, which is close except that the
      orthodox tradition in Chinese context is ethico-political rather than
      strictly theological, and where all these tendencies may be not only
      observed, but found to be dominant, I would suggest: All of the above.

      No one has yet mentioned the postmodern tendency, which has the general
      effect, in all fields of which I am aware, of legitimizing (or at minimum,
      co-legitimizing) less rigorous, or frankly preference-driven, explanatory
      models.

      As for "orality," one of the ironies in the situation is that the home field
      seems to have abandoned it, or so I take to be the paradigm meaning of M L
      West's new edition of the Iliad, which flatly takes Homer's text as written
      down from the outset. I have now and then admonished my colleagues for
      letting Sinology become a dumping ground for theories which have proved
      their disworth in their home territory, whether literary or mathematical,
      but so far without noticeably diminishing their enthusiasm for those
      theories. Enthusiasm has its own reasons, which reason knows not of.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst


      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • John C. Poirier
      ... Wow--if that s the case, it would certainly be a blow against the orality paradigm. I wonder who s carrying the Parry/Lord torch today in Homer studies
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 12, 2004
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        E Bruce Brooks wrote:

        > As for "orality," one of the ironies in the situation is that the home
        > field seems to have abandoned it, or so I take to be the paradigm meaning
        > of M L West's new edition of the Iliad, which flatly takes Homer's text
        > as written down from the outset. I have now and then admonished my
        > colleagues for letting Sinology become a dumping ground for theories
        > which have proved their disworth in their home territory, whether literary
        > or mathematical, but so far without noticeably diminishing their
        > enthusiasm for those theories.

        Wow--if that's the case, it would certainly be a blow against the orality
        paradigm.

        I wonder who's carrying the Parry/Lord torch today in Homer studies (perhaps
        Nagy)? It might be worthwhile to see if the Parry/Lord disciples have
        recently had to adopt a defensive posture, as that might provide a look into
        the state of the question within Homer studies.


        John C. Poirier
        Middletown, Ohio



        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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      • LeeEdgarTyler@aol.com
        In a message dated 11/12/2004 8:41:06 AM Central Standard Time, poirier@siscom.net writes: ... Wow--if that s the case, it would certainly be a blow against
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 12, 2004
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          In a message dated 11/12/2004 8:41:06 AM Central Standard Time, poirier@... writes:
          E Bruce Brooks wrote:

          > As for "orality," one of the ironies in the situation is that the home
          > field seems to have abandoned it, or so I take to be the paradigm meaning
          > of M L West's new edition of the Iliad, which flatly takes Homer's text
          > as written down from the outset. I have now and then admonished my
          > colleagues for letting Sinology become a dumping ground for theories
          > which have proved their disworth in their home territory, whether literary
          > or mathematical, but so far without noticeably diminishing their
          > enthusiasm for those theories.

          Wow--if that's the case, it would certainly be a blow against the orality
          paradigm.

          I wonder who's carrying the Parry/Lord torch today in Homer studies (perhaps
          Nagy)?  It might be worthwhile to see if the Parry/Lord disciples have
          recently had to adopt a defensive posture, as that might provide a look into
          the state of the question within Homer studies.


          John C. Poirier
          Middletown, Ohio
          One of the primary proponents of the study of orality in Homer is John Miles Foley, of the University of Missouri's Center for Studies in Oral Tradition.  Greg Nagy is of course another major figure.  I would also call attention to the work of Francelia Clark, David Bynum, and John D. Niles.
           
          There is little to recommend the notion that either the Iliad or the Odyssey are without oral roots, since both contain material that unquestionably predates Greek literacy.  Also, the nature of the Greek decasyllable formula is such that its development cannot be explained by recourse to literate composition.  It is not, however, out of line to suggest that the texts of the Homeric epics as we have them were composed in writing, because literate modes of composition take a long time to develop.  In other words, for a considerable time after a culture develops literacy, its poets continue to compose in the oral modes that were in place before that development.  The aesthetics of orality persist in written traditions.
           
          For more on this subject, I would recommend three books by Foley: Oral Traditional Epic; Immanent Art; and Homer's Traditional Art.  The posture of proponents of orality in Homeric studies is anything but defensive; however, few scholars today accept Parry's direct correspondence between the Homeric epics and the South-Slavic oral epics.  Parry was correct in his observations, but did not develop the complexities of the issue completely.  Of course, he died young.  Lord's appreciation of these complexities grew over time, and it is unfortunate that most contemporary criticism of the oral theory in Homeric studies still concentrates on scholarship that is 45 years old (Lord's Singer of Tales) or more. 
           
          E Tyler
        • Charles Miller
          For some dissenting views about the early demise of oral studies in relationship to Greek poetry, etc., there is the following:
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 12, 2004
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            For some dissenting views about the early demise of oral studies in
            relationship to Greek poetry, etc., there is the following:

            http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2004/2004-09-44.html

            Charles David Miller
            ADEP
            College of St. Scholastica

            "[E]xistence must be so arranged that you do not with the aid of
            certainty in knowledge slink out of revealing yourself in judging or in
            the way you judge. When deception and truth are presented as two equal
            possibilities in contrast to each other, the decision is whether there
            is love or mistrust in you." -- Kierkegaard, _Works of Love_

            "DULCE BELLUM INEXPERTIS"

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