Silent Expurgation

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scotistic
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Silent Expurgation

Post by scotistic » Mon Oct 22, 2018 11:47 pm

I've been reading the Iliad in the Macmillan Leaf and Bayfield edition, along with their notes. Today I discovered that 3.441-447 are omitted, simply passed over without any acknowledgment! No mention in the notes either (it's the bit after Paris and Menelaus' dual where Paris tells Helen he hasn't desired her so much since they first ran off together). The introduction didn't indicate it was a no-naughty-bits edition - not that this bit is more than very mildly naughty.

Now I'm wondering what else is left out - surely a certain dialogue between Zeus and Hera later on. But now I'm not sure whether or not I've already missed any lines here and there in the earlier books. I don't know the Iliad so well that a few lines missing would necessarily jump out at me every time. I'm annoyed, because until now I've been loving this edition, great size, great print, interesting notes. Far better than Willcock. I have the St Martin's Press Willcock text and tried reading it last year, but quit after seven books or so. The text was small and badly arranged on the page, and I found the commentary useless. Leaf and Bayfield have been making for a very satisfying reading text.

I have both Merry's and Stanford's Odyssey editions and am wondering now if either of these are expurgated too. I presume/hope Stanford's is late enough not to do it. Anybody know anything about this?

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by jeidsath » Tue Oct 23, 2018 3:56 am

I picked up a 4-volume edition of the same a few months ago, and have been enjoying it myself. Any expurgation is all on Bayfield, I think, as Leaf's edition does nothing of the kind. Luckily, I've only been using for the notes and grammatical introduction, and have been reading the main text elsewhere. The notes are great (other than the appendix on Homeric armor).

I was thinking of making a post on the "Composition of the Iliad" section of the introduction, with its description of multiple strata. I think that Leaf has most of the same material, but it's scattered throughout his notes. Bayfield puts in into one neat section.
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by scotistic » Tue Oct 23, 2018 7:17 pm

The composition section is interesting. I find it plausible in general if not in detail. In my view the composition of the Iliad is most likely analogous with that of Le Morte D'Arthur: built largely but not completely out of pre-existing material shaped and matured in a long tradition, constructed as a whole by a master craftsman who intelligently edited, stitched, refined, and added to that material to make a unified work, which itself was subject to (much milder) tinkering in the course of transmission.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by jeidsath » Tue Oct 23, 2018 8:36 pm

The point about Zeus's intended results for the οὖλος ὄνειρος not fitting with book Β convinces me that some cutting has gone on.

As to whether any piece of writing is done by the original author or a fan, I happen to think that there is usually a good way to tell by looking at characterization. An original author uses circumstance to reveal new character depth. A fan manipulates circumstance to allow an existing character to display his already typecast role. Often, that's what makes a sequel from an original author a mixed bag -- more often than not, he takes familiar characters and leads them in unfamiliar new directions. A fan only does this by ineptitude.

In this light, I think the points made by Bayfield about stratum three are very cogent. A lot of that looks like fan work. That this fan is in some ways as talented as the original Homer is hardly a surprise, I think. The art form was very limited. And it seems that there was a great deal of epic poetry by different authors and a lot wasn't good enough for anybody to think it might be worth preserving. The bad stuff never adhered to the tradition.
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:18 pm

The problem with you idea, Joel, is that Homer didn't create his characters, or at least not the most important ones. They are traditional, Homer only adapted them.

I haven't read Bayfield, but ideas like his are (unfortunately, in my opinion) rather unfashionable today. The late Martin West developed similar ideas in his book The Making of the Iliad a few years ago. An absolute must to read. His idea is that inconsistencies were mostly due to the author making adjustments to his own work; the work must have lasted for years - in similar way, today, when come back later to something we have written ourselves, we create inconsistencies.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Paul Derouda » Wed Oct 24, 2018 8:38 pm

Btw, Stanford is not expurgated. I am not sure about Merry's school edition (he has also a scholarly commentary on 1-12 with Riddell), but I think expurgation is unlikely.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Thu Oct 25, 2018 3:04 pm

I was thinking of making a post on the "Composition of the Iliad" section of the introduction, with its description of multiple strata.
Joel, before you do this, you should read a lot more -- and more recent scholarship -- about the origin and composition of the Iliad, and also the entire poem in Greek. While the older Macmillan texts are generally quite good, they are very outdated. Scholarship on the Homeric poems in particular underwent a revolution in the 20th century which can't be ignored, and trying to understand the Iliad on the same terms as a modern novel will only lead you further astray.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by jeidsath » Fri Oct 26, 2018 9:16 pm

The point of these threads is to give you guys a chance to tell me what I should be reading. I’m not in a grad program after all, and in lieu of that, the posters here are my dissertation advisors, so to speak. If you would like to assign me a reading list, please do so.
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Sat Oct 27, 2018 6:12 pm

I'm not a teacher or professional scholar, but in my amateur and amateurish view, a good place to start would be Homer, Poet of the Iliad by Mark Edwards.

https://www.amazon.com/Homer-Iliad-Mark ... ref=sr_1_1

Book VI would be a good book to read in its entirety as an entry into the Iliad.

An up-to-date commentary on Book VI, with a useful introduction that summarizes the current state of opinion on the composition of the Iliad (among other things), is in the Cambridge Greek and Latin Classics (Green and Yellow) series by Graziosi and Haubold:

https://www.amazon.com/Homer-Iliad-Camb ... ref=sr_1_1

Questions about the origins and composition of the Iliad were placed in an entirely new light, beginning in the 1920s and 1930s, by Milman Parry's studies of the compositional techniques of Yugoslav oral bards still active in that era, and his demonstration that the Homeric poems show evidence of similar compositional techniques. The question of whether the Iliad was composed in writing or orally had existed since Wolf at the beginning of the 19th century and had been raised even before him, but Parry's work brought the issue into focus with specificity as to the actual techniques of composition.

This is the revolution I mentioned, which makes the work of 19th century analysts such as Leaf if not wholly obsolete, at least requiring substantial revision and reevaluation. The issue of whether the Iliad was originally written or composed orally or dictated by one or more aoidoi hasn't gone away (or maybe it's fair to say it's been made nearly irrelevant), but Parry's work completely changed the terms of the discussion by showing exactly and in highly technical detail how a long poem in a difficult meter could be composed orally during actual performance -- in real time -- using a traditional artificial language built up over time out of metrical fragments that fill specific metrical slots.

You can read about Parry's work (unfortunately he died, possibly by suicide, before completing a synthesis) in Albert Lord's Singer of Tales, apparently about to be republished -- as long as you're careful not to take this as the last word, which hasn't been, and never will be, uttered. There is all too much oral theory nonsense afloat, but at the same time few if any scholars reject it today, and it has had nothing short of a revolutionary impact on Homeric studies.

https://www.amazon.com/Singer-Tales-Thi ... fkmrnull_1

I should mention that other contributions to an understanding of the composition of the Iliad were also made around the same time as Parry's work: for example, the recognition that the language of the Homeric poems is an artificial language, not a spoken dialect, and the demonstration of how the poet used "typical scenes" to fill out the narrative.

You can also read West's book, which Paul cited, reviving some of the 19th century analyst ideas in a new framework that is compatible with oral theory to a large extent. However, I don't think many Homeric specialists have wholeheartedly embraced his views, which are certainly ingenious and plausible, but in my view go too far beyond what little evidence there is. I think there are other possible, and maybe more satisfying, explanations for the phenomena on which his ideas are based.

Graziosi/Haubold, in my view, treat the issues of the composition of the Iliad with an appropriate level of undecided caution, which I think is where we have to leave the issue unless additional evidence can be found, and that's highly unlikely. By the way, I see that Barbara Graziosi is coming out with a book on Homer in the Oxford Very Short Introduction series early next year, and I for one will be eager to read it.

One thing that has to be kept in mind is that we don't really know how the original audiences (or readership?) of the Iliad would have reacted to the poem and its various parts. For example, most everyone today (except scholars who are intrigued by its problems) finds the Catalogue of Ships tedious, but it appears that catalogue poetry was quite popular in archaic Greece. Many aspects of the Iliad that seem puzzling to us may well have played to the Iliad's original audiences, which we know next to nothing about (along with the circumstances of performance, though I think we can be reasonably certain that in general the Iliad, whenever it may have been reduced to writing, did not reach audiences in written form until the 5th century or even later). Without having reviewed the 19th century literature on the Iliad and its composition in depth, I think, based on what I've read about it, that much of it was based on expectations that were derived, consciously or not, from engaging with 18th and 19th century fiction.

Also, would the many small inconsistencies that analyst critics have seized upon have troubled a composer (or a group) working in an oral tradition or audiences enjoying the poem, in whole or most likely in parts, in an oral performance?

Perhaps mwh could suggest some additional reading materials.
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Oct 27, 2018 9:59 pm

I agree with Hylander that, first thing, it's a good idea to get acquainted with the oral composition theory if you want to understand Homer. I suppose that reading my posts one might get the impression that I'm dismissing the whole oral theory, but actually it's rather that I take it for granted. My first contact with Homeric scholarship was the huge six-part Cambridge commentary on the Iliad, which is largely oralist in outlook. I read it almost in totality along with the Iliad, and since then oral theory has been my starting point to Homer. The weakness in many if not most oral theory variants is that they don't address to satisfaction the question how did a long poem in a complex meter composed orally in real time (i.e. improvised) end up on paper. This is the question I then set out to find an answer for, and which only West of all those that I've read gives an answer that's at least plausible. (His answer is: they didn't. The Iliad and the Odyssey were composed in writing, even if they stem from an oral tradition.) It is, however, something of a personal crusade of mine, and if you only read West there's a risk that you'll be very short of the full picture. You definitely need to get a picture of Parry's ideas, type scenes etc. to name only those mentioned by Hylander. There's no getting around the fact that Homer is oral poetry.

I've read Graziosi & Haubold's book The Resonance of Epic, which seemed a quite balanced thin book, and I think Hylander is right to recommend these two as authorities. That particular book was not very technical and is addressed to a rather large audience; I'd suppose that Cambridge Green and Yellow will contain much of the same material but in a more condensed and technical format (But I wonder if Graziosi's new Very Short book will have anything that's not in e.g. The Resonance of Epic. The same matters are dealt with in many introductory chapters to recent commentaries, and there's not much I learnt from The Resonance of Epic, because I'd already read it elsewhere - but as an introduction it's nice.). Unless you want start from the first book of the Iliad in order to read it all, I think that with G&H's commentary on book 6 you'll be in good company.

I don't think that you necessarily need to read Parry's original work, because it's neatly summarized in almost every serious commentary written in the last 50 years. Unfortunaly, I can't comment on Edwards' book, as I haven't read it. He's also written one of the six parts of the Cambridge Iliad commentary, which was one of the better ones if my memory is good.

The Catalogue of Ships is an interesting point! I think there was some early manuscript that omitted it, but it's funny how it must have interested ancient audiences. You find similar catalogues in many other ancient works, beginning with the Old and the New Testament. I suppose it's related to the fact that they often deal with ethnic and other identities, and also to the fact that people lived in a world where reliable information on times past wasn't readily available.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by jeidsath » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:23 pm

Thank you for the extremely useful suggestions. In the next few days, I’ll see about splitting this thread and pinning them to the top of the forum for others. (And I’ll also go about about acquiring the suggested sources.)
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:37 pm

The weakness in many if not most oral theory variants is that they don't address to satisfaction the question how did a long poem in a complex meter composed orally in real time (i.e. improvised) end up on paper.
My point is that that is something we will never know -- there just isn't enough evidence, and it's highly unlikely that new evidence will ever be uncovered. We can speculate, as all too many have done since the time of Wolf and even before, but we are no closer to knowing the precise truth today than in 1804. Well, maybe we are closer to knowing the truth today with the oral theory and other developments to understanding how the Iliad might have arisen, but the exact circumstances of its composition will always elude us. So why twist ourselves into pretzels with endless speculation on a question that can never be answered?

The story of the Iliad is not told in a completely linear fashion, some episodes seem longer than necessary to us, and there are many small inconsistencies along the way. The 19th century analysts, as I mentioned, based their theories about successive stages in the Iliad's composition on these features of the poem, and West's ideas about the origin of the poem as the work of a single poet adding material over the course of a lifetime to an original compact narrative nucleus draw on these feature, too.

In my view, however, the overall structure of the poem is brilliant. What we have is a vast, monumental, sprawling poem that recounts not only many of the incidents of the Trojan War but also much of Greek myth and legend -- the entire Greek heroic age -- within the framework of the anger of Achilles.

The quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon, setting up the framework, occurs at the very beginning, but the specific chain of events that forms the main narrative of the poem, namely, the declining fortunes of the Greeks with Hector setting the ships on fire, the death of Achilles' friend Patroclus at Hector's hands, the killing of Hector and the restoration of Hector's body to his father, only gets under way in the second half.The first half of the poem, after Book 1, gives us incidents that amount to a full picture of the progress of the war until Zeus' plan to punish the Achaeans for the slight to Achilles goes into effect.

The demoralization of the Greeks after 10 years of inconclusive fighting is pictured in Book 2, the main characters on the Greek side are introduced in the Teichoscopy in Book 3, and other incidents are presented in the books that follow (recognizing that the book division is probably simply a convenience introduced later and not original). The Embassy in Book 9 brings the main story back on track, bringing into sharp focus the psychology of Achilles and his stake in the quarrel. The main narrative of Achilles' withdrawal and its consequences picks up again at 11 and then continues to the end.

The narrative is long and drawn out, to be sure, but that's because important incidents, such as the scene in Nestor's hut, are presented in elaborate detail. The lengthy elaboration of some incidents to give them greater importance, which makes some modern readers impatient, seems to me to be a key feature of the Iliad's narrative technique.

The Achaeans rally and are then pushed back and the major Achaean heroes are wounded and other incidents are expansively narrated, before Patroclus arrives at the front line, kills Sarpedon and then is himself killed by Hector. From then on, the narrative proceeds more or less in a straight line. The three major deaths, Sarpedon, Patroclus, Hector, are presented in increasingly elaborate detail, reaching a climax with Hector. After Hector's death, the funeral games -- an apparent digression with a comedic undertone -- serve the purpose of relieving some of the tension, which I think is necessary to prepare for the astonishing and profoundly moving conclusion.

I think many of the incidents (the duel between Menelaus and Paris, Diomedes and Glaucon) read as if they might be intended for separate recitation. It's hard to imagine an audience sitting through a multi-day recitation of the whole poem, but of course the audience didn't have TV or maybe even not even stage dramas to entertain them. Again, we know next to nothing about the circumstances in which the Iliad was originally presented before audiences.

At any rate, I don't see why it's easier to imagine an Iliad beginning with a compact nucleus to which more and more material was added over time, either by a single individual over a lifetime or by multiple individuals over a longer period, than an Iliad originally conceived and assembled as a single monumental composition, in part out of traditional materials and in part perhaps out of the sheer imagination of its composer(s), with some minor inconcinnities that would have gone unnoticed to composer(s) and audiences alike. And what difference does it make anyway?
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:51 pm

Joel, put this discussion in a separate thread with a more accurate title, but please don't pin it. In a year or even a few months I'll probably change my mind 180 degrees and I'll be ashamed I ever wrote such nonsense, and maybe Paul will look back with some regrets, too.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Ahab » Sun Oct 28, 2018 6:16 pm

Hylander wrote: You can read about Parry's work (unfortunately he died, possibly by suicide, ....
As far as I've been able to determine, the source for speculation regarding Parry's suicide is Hanson and Heath's book Who Killed Homer?. A good review of that book can be found at BMCR:
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/1998/98.5.12.html

Personally I am not at all a fan of Hanson's writings so I wouldn't take the speculation seriously without a more credible source.

In addition to the good recommendations you've given, I'd suggest a look at Joachim Latacz's article on the history of Homeric commentary which can be found in the Prolegomena volume of the Basel Commentary:
https://www.amazon.com/Prolegomena-Home ... dpSrc=srch
Why, he's at worst your poet who sings how Greeks
That never were, in Troy which never was,
Did this or the other impossible great thing!
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:01 am

Hanson did not originate the rumor that Parry committed suicide. I was told this in the early 1960s when I was in high school and heard it a number of other times. Only much later I read somewhere that his death could have been accidental. He's supposed to have died while cleaning a gun or taking it out of a suitcase. Often that's a euphemism.

Sadly, his son, Adam Parry, was killed in a motorcycle accident (with his wife) at a relatively early age. Adam Parry followed in his father's footsteps as a classicist and a Homer scholar, but his work was not principally involved with the oral theory. In fact, he took the Iliad seriously as a subject of literary criticism, at a time when the oral-formulaic theory, in its most extreme, reductionist form, which saw the Iliad almost as a mechanical product of a stringing together of traditional formulas in a traditional story line with no room for the human creativity of an individual singer, posed the question of whether literary criticism could properly be applied to a work like the Iliad in those circumstances. Adam Parry's essay "The Language of Achilles" showed how Achilles has his own special, poetical way of speaking in the poem -- clearly demonstrating the working of individual human imagination and creativity in the composition of the Iliad. Everyone interested in the Iliad should read it.

By the way, Milman Parry went to Yugoslavia (Bosnia) for his PhD thesis to study the craft of illiterate traditional singers, which held the key to understanding how the Homeric poems could be composed orally in performance using a repertory of formulas tailored to fit the meter. He did so at the suggestion of the great linguist Antoine Meillet. Meillet in turn got the idea that the Bosnian from the Slovenian Slavicist Matija Murko, who was familiar with the South Slavic singers. Parry's work was brilliant and of enormous consequence not just for the study of the Homeric poems but also for all archaic Greek literature.

However, there are still some who call themselves "hard Parryists", who reject the notion that individual human creativity could have entered into the composition of the Iliad, and who insist on fitting the Iliad and the Odyssey to the Procrustean bed of the South Slavic model. For example: writing could not possibly have entered into the process of the creation of the Iliad because the South Slavic singers were illiterate. That's what I meant about oral theory nonsense. To some extent Lord's book, The Singer of Tales, fits this mold. (Lord was Parry's assistant in Yugoslavia.) John Miles Foley, who studied oral poetic traditions in a wide range of other cultures and wrote about Homer as well, took a more moderate approach, from what I've seen of his writings.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by jeidsath » Mon Oct 29, 2018 1:52 am

Literacy and an oral composition model are very hard to comprehend together. I've seen the observation in both ancient (Plato?) and more recent sources (19th century) that the illiterate's capacity for verse memory is orders of magnitudes greater than the literate man's. Television destroys it too, as Albert Lord has noted.
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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Hylander » Mon Oct 29, 2018 3:23 am

the illiterate's capacity for verse memory is orders of magnitudes greater than the literate man's. Television destroys it too,
You are confusing rhapsodes, who memorized and performed from memory large chunks of poetry (Plato's Ion), with aoidoi, such as Demodocus in the Odyssey, who presumably could actually create original poetry in performance by drawing on a repertory of formulas shaped to fit the meter, just as the Bosnian singers of tales did. The composers of the Iliad and the Odyssey must have had just such a repertory in their heads, as well as other resources of traditional oral poetry such as type scenes and even narrative patterns, allowing him (her?) to spin out the Iliad to great and monumental length. In fact, the composers of the Iliad and the Odyssey must have been consummate virtuosi of oral composition.

But I don't think that after Parry there can be any question that the Iliad was the product of a tradition of oral poetry, however it came to be reduced to writing. How the actual reduction of the composer's or composers' poem to writing occurred is a mystery that can't, and will never, be resolved for lack of evidence, but it's plausible that dictation may have played a role, and it can't even be ruled out that the composer(s) knew how to write. It's also possible that the Iliad was assembled as late as the sixth century (the so-called Peisistratid recension) out of performances or out of traditional materials that had been reduced to writing earlier. We just don't know, and, in the end, I think at this point it's an irrelevancy.

Lord apparently thought that acquiring literacy put an end to the Bosnian singers' ability to and interest in composing oral poetry -- when they learned to write, they thought that writing was so much better than oral composition -- and that therefore the composer(s) of the Iliad must themselves have been illiterate, too. But unlike the Bosnian singers, they were active in a culture that was virtually exclusively oral, they weren't immersed in a culture where written material such as books and newspapers were prevalent, and they didn't TV yet. So maybe the acquisition of writing in such a culture would not put an end to oral composition, or maybe it did once the Iliad and the Odyssey, and other traditional material, were written down.

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Re: Silent Expurgation

Post by Paul Derouda » Mon Oct 29, 2018 4:52 pm

I essentially agree with most of what Hylander says here. What I meant is that writing down for the first time an epic like the Iliad with the writing mediums of the time must have been a difficult and time consuming enterprise. While we will never be able tell with certitude how exactly it was reduced to writing (although I'm not quite as agnostic here as Hylander, and don't find this irrelevant), it is simply ridiculous to assert, like some oralists do, that all inconcinnities are to be explained as by-products of the poem being oral in origin, as if the Iliad was an exact written transcript of an oral performance. Whatever the exact nature of textualization process, it must have been complex and laborious, and we should expect it to have left its trace on the result (as we should expect later textual transmission have its effect as well, just like on all ancient texts). We can see similar problems related to the writing process in Herodotus and Thucydides; we even see it in modern books that have gone through copy-editing (see how different the beginning of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings is compared to the end). So while we may not be able to find definite answers to these questions, we can't pretend that they don't exist. This caveat does not apply to all oralists, of course.

But like I said, I mostly agree with Hylander. Especially, I agree with him on two important points: First, "Homer" was an aoidos, a thoroughly competent oral poet who must have been an virtuoso improviser of poetry in performance. The difference between an aoidos and a rhapsode need not to have been absolute; perhaps especially in earlier times many rhapsodes would have been able to improvise as well, though this will have varied according to time and place and the audiences' taste - with a few fixed texts like the Iliad and the Odyssey gaining ground over time. Second, the overall structure of the Iliad is brilliant and must be the fruit of one talented who individual - who, of course, would have drawn on traditional material to create a unified monumental composition.

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