Listening to Homer
Tradition, Narrative, and Audience
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: University of Michigan Press
What Are We Talking about When We Talk about Tradition?
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No term appears more often in the study of Homer than tradition. But what exactly is tradition, and why does it matter? Most Hellenists have long since accepted that for many generations before the Homeric poems were composed, Greeks had listened to the tales of heroes as bards...
Textualization and the Newest Song
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Oral poets usually perform for audiences whose tastes and responses they can hope to predict. Often, the audiences are local, and a poet may perform many times for the same individuals and come to know their tastes precisely. In some traditions, much of the liveliness of particular performances comes from spontaneous interaction between the poet and...
Homeric Rhetorics: Traditionality and Disinterest
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Homeric epic relies on rhetorics of traditionality and disinterestedness. The epics remind the audience that earlier audiences heard these same stories, and they emphasize their own repetition of the familiar. At the same time, the rhetoric of disinterestedness implies that epic song, despite its traditional content, depends for its transmission not on oral...
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The poet confronting a large and unfamiliar audience faced difficulties with exposition as well as with authority. If he did not know exactly what songs they had heard before and in what version, he did not know what they already knew. Since only stories of the origin of the world (Genesis, Hesiod’s Theogony) can begin at the beginning, narratives...
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The main narrative of both the Iliad and the Odyssey expects a general, fundamental knowledge of earlier epic stories but does not rely on the audience to know many details. The poet tells his audience what it needs to know as the need arises, and the attentive listener can easily follow without extensive prior knowledge. However, this is not always true of...
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The Homeric poems make themselves accessible to listeners who have only a general familiarity with the traditional stories; those who know more will enjoy them more. However, their rhetorical strategy constructs an extremely knowledgeable narrative audience. Homeric narrative is thus not always transparent, and there is a significant gap...
The Social Audience
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The Homeric epics practice considerable mystification in the interest of capturing the widest possible audience. They create a narrative audience of connoisseurs. Inviting everyone into the audience, they expend considerable narrative effort to make themselves accessible and to bridge the distance between the narrative and authorial audiences. At...
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Index of Passages Cited
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2002