Colin Burrow

in Epic Romance

Published in print September 1993 | ISBN: 9780198117940
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191671135 | DOI:

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Homer is hard not to read as a unified and intelligible author. However, it is difficult to avoid feeling at the same time that the Homeric poems are, to some degree, falling apart. Similar phrases and epithets keep recurring in different places with slightly new emphases, and narrative elements in the poems seem often shadily to repeat one another. Achilles is often swift of foot; Hector is very often called ‘horse-taming’; encounters between warriors seem often to be governed by flexible but discernible laws. These features—that modern scholars would attribute to the oral composition of the poems—give the impression that the Iliad and the Odyssey stem from a unified vision, since many of the new turns of phrase that one encounters read like variant versions of idioms that one has already met, and several narrative episodes—say council scenes—seem like revisions of ones that have gone before.

Keywords: Homer; poems; Achilles; Hector; Iliad; Odyssey; epithets; oral composition

Chapter.  11352 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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