Re: [Synoptic-L] Explanations for Orality
- 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
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, OhioOne 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
- For some dissenting views about the early demise of oral studies in
relationship to Greek poetry, etc., there is the following:
Charles David Miller
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
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is love or mistrust in you." -- Kierkegaard, _Works of Love_
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