Defining Greek Narrative

Defining Greek Narrative

Douglas Cairns
Ruth Scodel
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 392
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3366/j.ctt9qdqsg
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  • Book Info
    Defining Greek Narrative
    Book Description:

    Examines what is distinct, what is shared and what is universal in Greek narrative tradition  The ‘Classic’ narratology that has been widely applied to classical texts is aimed at a universal taxonomy for describing narratives. More recently, ‘new narratologies’ have begun linking the formal characteristics of narrative to their historical and ideological contexts. This volume seeks such a rethinking for Greek literature. It has two closely related objectives: to define what is characteristically Greek in Greek narratives of different periods and genres, and to see how narrative techniques and concerns develop over time.The 15 distinguished contributors explore questions such as:How is Homeric epic like and unlike Gilgamesh and the Hebrew Bible. What do Greek historians consistently fail to tell us, having learned from the tradition what to ignore?. How does lyric modify narrative techniques from other genres?

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-8011-5
    Subjects: History, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel
  4. NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. 1 INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-10)
    Ruth Scodel

    Behind this volume lies the hope that we will someday achieve a general view of the history of ancient Greek narrative (henceforth, for simplicity, often ‘Greek narrative’) – that is, that we will be able to present a meaningful narrative about how the practices of telling stories developed within Greek literature, and that this history will contribute to the understanding of both Greek literature and narrative generally. Before anyone can write a history, however, the historian needs to be certain that the field has been meaningfully defined, both temporally and spatially. A narrative requires a beginning and an end, and a...

  6. PART I DEFINING THE GREEK TRADITION
    • 2 BEYOND AUERBACH: HOMERIC NARRATIVE AND THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH
      (pp. 13-28)
      Johannes Haubold

      One of the most ambitious attempts to define ancient Greek narrative, and one of the most influential to date, is Erich Auerbach’s bookMimesis. In the famous opening chapter, written in Istanbul in 1942, Auerbach argues that Homeric narrative is all surface and illuminated detail, whereas the Hebrew Bible is elliptic, deep and demanding of its reader.¹ To this day,Mimesisinforms what modern readers see as characteristic of Homeric narrative,² and of classical Greek literature more generally: for that reason alone, it seems important to revisit it in this volume. I would like to take the opportunity to consider...

    • 3 HOMERIC BATTLE NARRATIVE AND THE ANCIENT NEAR EAST
      (pp. 29-54)
      Adrian Kelly

      How do we define ancientGreeknarrative? The theme of this volume, and the conference on which it is based, is more than a timely one. Thanks to the efforts of many scholars – Walter Burkert and Martin West above all – classicists now take very seriously the role of comparative study in helping to illuminate the culture of early archaic Greece, usually by listing apparently parallel phenomena in the many civilisations of the ancient Near East (hereafter ANE).¹ Whilst the broadening of horizons in this way must be a welcome development, not all of the new vistas are equally fair, and...

    • 4 NARRATIVE FOCUS AND ELUSIVE THOUGHT IN HOMER
      (pp. 55-74)
      Ruth Scodel

      This chapter will consider three aspects of Homeric narrative whose interaction produces characteristic and influential effects. The first, and most famous, is reliance on direct speech.¹ Homer accomplishes his characterisations largely through speeches (including speeches in which characters attribute motives or traits to each other).² By itself, Homer’s reliance on direct speech does not mark a uniquely Greek narrative tradition, since Sanskrit epic, for example, also presents many speeches. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that in this respect the Homeric epics were outliers in early Greek epic tradition (Aristotle,Poetics1460a5—11), and Apollonius uses direct speech far less than the...

    • 5 STRUCTURE AS INTERPRETATION IN THE HOMERIC ODYSSEY
      (pp. 75-100)
      Erwin Cook

      ‘Defining Greek narrative’ poses an interesting challenge for Homerists, like myself, committed to the proposition that the epics reflect the compositional practices of oral poetry the world over.¹ In terms of formal approaches, many scholars, including contributors to this volume, have found it productive to apply narratology to elucidate Homer, a methodology with greater universalising assumptions than oral theory. Nevertheless, an aspect of the epics that I believe is distinctive, and in certain respects unique, is the ways in which they manipulate traditional conventions so as to guide reception. Although Scodel rightly cautions against assuming homogeneous audiences of epic connoisseurs,...

  7. PART II THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE GREEK TRADITION
    • 10 EXEMPLARITY AND NARRATIVE IN THE GREEK TRADITION
      (pp. 103-136)
      Douglas Cairns

      This chapter investigates the role of what I shall call the ‘principle of alternation’ (the idea that no human life is free of suffering, that the best one can expect is a mixture of good and bad fortune) in (some) ancient Greek narratives. This is not a narratological study in the traditional, formalist sense, but rather reflects my own interests in Greek social and ethical norms and especially in the sociality of emotion in ancient Greek societies. In its broadest terms, its affiliations are with recent approaches, especially those influenced by the cognitive sciences, that see the human species’ storytelling...

    • 7 ‘WHERE DO I BEGIN?’: AN ODYSSEAN NARRATIVE STRATEGY AND ITS AFTERLIFE
      (pp. 137-155)
      Richard Hunter

      If modern narratology has a point of origin, or its own aetiology, then Odysseus’ words to Alcinous at the start of Book 9 of theOdysseyhave as good a claim as any to take pride of place:

      σοὶ δ’ ἐμὰ κήδεα θυμὸς ἐπετράπετο στονόεντα

      εἴρεσθ’, ὄφρ’ ἔτι μᾶλλον ὀδυρόμενος στεναχίζω.

      τί πρῶτόν τοι ἔπειτα, τί δ’ ὑστάτιον καταλέξω;

      κήδε’ ἐπεί μοι πολλὰ δόσαν θεοὶ Οὐρανίωνες. 15

      νῦν δ’ ὄνομα πρῶτον μυθήσομαι, ὄφρα καὶ ὑμεῖς

      εἴδετ’, ἐγὼ δ’ ἂν ἔπειτα φυγὼν ὕπο νηλεὲς ἦμαρ

      ὑμῖν ξεῖνος ἔω καὶ ἀπόπροθι δώματα ναίων.

      But your spirit has determined to ask about my...

    • 8 SOME ANCIENT VIEWS ON NARRATIVE, ITS STRUCTURE AND WORKING
      (pp. 156-174)
      René Nünlist

      ‘The second task required of a writer of an historical work (the first task being to select a suitable subject) is to decide where to begin and how far to go.’¹ The fundamental questions of ‘where to begin’ and ‘where to end’ must be as old as literature itself. They automatically pose themselves to any would-be poet or author. Moreover, passages such asOd.9.14 show that, from an early stage, poets openly addressed the questions ‘What then shall I recount first, what last?’ (albeit here in the voice of the character Odysseus at the beginning of his long narrative...

    • 9 WHO, SAPPHO?
      (pp. 175-196)
      Alex Purves

      It is clear that Sappho’s poems, so far as we can reconstruct them, are not ‘narratives’ in the ordinary sense, even if we do not wish to accept the argument that lyric and narrative are naturally opposed.¹ There is an obvious difference between the kind of story being told in Sappho fr. 94, where the speaker asks a girl who is leaving to remember their gentle pleasures together, and the extended heroic narrative of theIliad. But how are we to frame that difference in terms of narrative? More specifically, can a poem like fr. 94 (already compromised by its...

    • 10 THE CREATIVE IMPACT OF THE OCCASION: PINDAR’S SONGS FOR THE EMMENIDS AND HORACE’S ODES 1.12 AND 4.2
      (pp. 197-225)
      Lucia Athanassaki

      Greek melic narratives are on the whole small-scale compositions and as a rule illustrate some aspect of the occasion for which they are composed, which is sometimes specified, sometimes implied and sometimes left totally unclear. In this chapter I focus on the occasion in order to explore the stimulus it offers for the composition of new narratives either for the same or for a related, subsequent occasion.

      Pindar’s songs for the Emmenids of Acragas will serve as my main test-case because (1) they constitute an interesting sequence of songs which call attention to their occasion, thus allowing assessment of the...

    • 11 NARRATIVE ON THE GREEK TRAGIC STAGE
      (pp. 226-240)
      P. E. Easterling

      This chapter sets out to look for what was distinctive about Greek practice in the staging of tragic stories. There is no doubt that this new art form of the late sixth and early fifth centuries was a highly original experiment, with no obvious model in other cultures, but of course the early dramatists did not have to start from scratch. The epic and lyric traditions offered them a great range of serious narratives which had already been shaped for performance, whether by rhapsodes or by choruses, and without this precedent it would be hard to imagine Attic tragedy having...

    • 12 STOCK SITUATIONS, TOPOI AND THE GREEKNESS OF GREEK HISTORIOGRAPHY
      (pp. 241-259)
      Lisa Irene Hau

      Scholars who work on Greek historiography tend to focus on the differences: Herodotus is the charming one who passes on local traditions; Thucydides is cynical about human nature and leaves religion out of history; Xenophon writes autobiographical history and peppers his work with intriguing dialogues; Polybius produced a handbook for statesmen, but is torn between Greece and Rome; Diodorus Siculus is only as good as his source; and so forth. But when we focus on these differences we often forget that, in fact, the works of Greek historiography, at least until the first century bc, are much more similar to...

    • 13 HELIODORUS THE HELLENE
      (pp. 260-276)
      J. R. Morgan

      At the end of his novel,Aethiopica, Heliodorus identifies himself thus:

      τοιόνδε πέρας εσχε τò σύνταγμα των περί Θεαγένην καί Χαρίκλειαν Αίθιοπικών· ο συνέταξεν άνήρ Φοΐνιξ Έμισηνός, των άφ’Ήλίου γένος Θεοδοσίου παΐς Ηλιόδωρος.

      So concludes theAethiopica, the story of Theagenes and Charicleia, the work of a Phoenician from the city of Emesa, one of the clan of Descendants of the Sun, Theodosius’ son, Heliodorus. (10.41.4)¹

      There are many systems of identity at work in this single sentence, but the crucial point is that the author appears to define himself, in terms of race, city and religious affiliation, as something...

  8. PART III BEYOND GREECE
    • 14 LIVY READING POLYBIUS: ADAPTING GREEK NARRATIVE TO ROMAN HISTORY
      (pp. 279-297)
      Dennis Pausch

      For as long as I have studied ancient historiography, one aspect in particular has been especially fascinating to me: the continual concern of many authors about their readers and the potential effect their narratives have on them. Or, to be more precise: what am I to do, howam I to write, in order to prevent the reader from becoming bored and –horribile dictu– from putting down the scroll and quitting communication with the author altogether.

      Dealing with the reader in antiquity is, needless to say, always tricky, because our knowledge is far from sufficient to take an empirical approach towards...

    • 15 PAMELA AND PLATO: ANCIENT AND MODERN EPISTOLARY NARRATIVES
      (pp. 298-313)
      A. D. Morrison

      For those working on ancient texts in a modern world which puts a high value (in different ways) on the ‘relevance’ and ‘impact’ of scholarly research, it is beguiling and seductive to discern ancient analogues or equivalents even for such seemingly modern forms as the novel,¹ as well as for genres whose antiquity is more transparent, such as the epic poem. A very understandable critical excitement has also been in evidence with regard to a special category of the novel, the novel in letters or epistolary novel (Briefroman), since there are several collections of Greek letters surviving from antiquity which...

    • 16 THE ANONYMOUS TRAVELLER IN EUROPEAN LITERATURE: A GREEK MEME?
      (pp. 314-333)
      Irene J. F. de Jong

      Italo Calvino’s novelIf on a Winter’s Night a Travellerof 1979 famously revolves around a reader in search of a book that he has started to read but that turns out to be incomplete. The book’s opening sentences tell of a traveller arriving on a winter’s night at the small station of a provincial town. In the final chapter the reader ends up in a library where one of the other readers warns him that finding the book will be very difficult since ‘ once upon a time they all began like that, all novels. There was somebody who...

  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 334-370)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 371-380)