Sunday, June 29, 2014

Iliad 12 as Oral Traditional Poetry

Each year at the Homer Multitext Summer Seminar we introduce a new group of students to the scholarly principles that underlie the Homer Multitext project, which are grounded in the research and fieldwork of Milman Parry and Albert Lord on oral poetry. In addition to talking in a broad way about how the Iliad was composed and transmitted over time, we also think out loud about how our understanding of Homeric poetry as an oral traditional system affects how we interpret the poetry. And each year we ground that discussion by focusing on a particular book of the Iliad. The students create an XML edition of the text and scholia for that book in the Venetus A manuscript, and in a series of sessions we talk as a group about the poetics of that book. This year's book is Iliad 12 and it has led us to discuss such topics as the building of and battle before the Achaean wall (which caused such consternation among Analyst scholars in the 19th and early 20th centuries), the poetics of battle and the way that they overlap with the poetics of Catalogue poetry such as we find in Iliad 2, and the way that repetition functions in oral poetry, as well as text critical questions such as how to treat verses that are omitted from one or more of our medieval manuscripts (such as 12.219). These discussions have fostered a great deal of creative exchange among the participating students and faculty (who this year include Michiel Cock, Casey Dué, Eric Dugdale, Mary Ebbott, Olga Levaniouk, Gregory Nagy, Corinne Pache, Ineke Sluiter, and Neel Smith). This exchange has in turn influenced the latest post on our Oral Poetry blog, "Walk On Characters in the Iliad." 

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