Chapter

Retrogression, Episode, and Anagogy: The Round Dance and Narrative Form

A. P. David

in The Dance of the Muses

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9780199292400
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780191711855 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199292400.003.0006
 Retrogression, Episode, and Anagogy: The Round Dance and Narrative Form

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This chapter considers the impact on Homeric art, thought, and narratology of an origin in the dance of the Muses, in ‘the intellectualization of a corporeally bound rhythm’. On the concept of ‘rhapsody’, it takes issue with Nagy’s inferences about composition and writing, citing images of art within the Homeric poems and the premise of a written original assumed by ‘rhapsody’ in other historical manifestations. Odysseus’ coinage, μυθολογεύειν, comprising μυθέεσθαι, ‘disclosing’, and καταλέγειν, ‘recounting’, encompasses a distinction between two words for ‘word’, μυθος and έπος; the discussion leads to a poetics of the ‘episode’ as a disclosive digression or retrogression, inserted within the links of a recounted narrative chain or catalogue (exemplified by a chart from Cedric Whitman). The peculiar retrogression built into the συρτός dance ultimately inspires the distinctively Greek rhetorical form ‘chiasmus’, whose reflexes in narrative include not only ‘ring composition’, but some of the deepest themes in Homeric epic, such as reversed tides of battle and returns of wandering warriors.

Keywords: Homer; narratology; rhapsody; Nagy; Cedric Whitman; chiasmus

Chapter.  14439 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical Literature

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