This paper provides readers of the 21st century with some assistance in appreciating Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, which were originally composed not for readers but for listeners almost three millennia ago. These poems were, moreover, heir to a long tradition of oral poetry which produced many other such compositions, now lost except for some few fragments and late summaries of their contents. Understanding the nature of oral composition (use of formulas, conversational syntax) may make the poems that we inevitably read as texts more accessible to students. In addition, we can recover some of the ways in which the two poems incorporated various elements of the tradition (such as allusions to well-known myths), and how, in doing so, they also diverge from each other (for example, in the contrasting use they make of anticipatory prophecies) in spite of the many qualities they share.


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pp. 29-54
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