M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Are you reading Homeric Greek? Whether you are a total beginner or an advanced Homerist, here you can meet kindred spirits. Besides Homer, use this board for all things early Greek poetry.
Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2090
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:23 pm

The latest outrage in my perusal of West's text of the Iliad: the bracketing of most of the wolf simile in 16.158 ff.

Janko (Commentary, vol. 4, p. 338): "This simile, expanded to suit the gravity of the moment, is one of Homer's best . . . "

Yes, Wilamowitz rejected it, too, but he thought the Iliad was a wretched patchwork.

User avatar
Paul Derouda
Global Moderator
Posts: 1958
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:24 pm

He calls the simile "a somewhat lurid rhapsodic interpolation, probably" in the Making of the Iliad. I don't have access now to his Studies book were he'll have a full treatment. Anyway, this judgement seems to be made on rather subjective linguistic criteria. I'm not running to West's defence here, though many prominent scholars have found this passage suspicious. Again whether you prefer that this kind of suspicion is indicated by bracketing or just in the apparatus or commentary is largely a matter of taste. I prefer bracketing, because although I'm not sure whether I agree on this particular instance, I generally think it's good to be explicitly reminded of linguistic or other abnormalities in the text, and because in the commentary or apparatus no one will notice anyway. Also, I like in general a firm stand against sloppy anything-goes-Oralism. :)

(Though the old analytic "everything is an interpolation by inept editors" is hardly better)

Anyway, whether these lines stand or not has no bearing on West's main argument. In this respect the question is analogous to that of the Doloneia, though most scholars agree that the Doloneia is an interpolation.

As for Janko's commentary, in general I like it very much, I think it's probably the best of the six.

Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2090
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:04 pm

many prominent scholars have found this passage suspicious.
Wilamowitz, Leaf and Heyne -- but they were extreme analysts who found much of the Iliad suspicious. They were of the 'everything is an interpolation by inept editors' school, and, like West, thought they could detect interpolations just by resorting to their own powers of divination. Apart from concordance interpolations, where a weakly attested verse has clearly found its way into some of the manuscripts from elsewhere, we can never be sure what is interpolated in the Homeric poems and what is not. We don't have reliable evidence for any process by which passages could be interpolated into the text. We may find some passages "lurid," but how can we say that the original audiences for the poems (whoever they were) shared our tastes? Janko certainly doesn't share West's distaste for the lurid.

An editor of the Iliad shouldn't impose his or her arbitrary tastes on the text without hard evidence. Suspicions that aren't backed up by the slightest shred of hard evidence belong in the apparatus or a commentary, not in the text, especially a text that is clearly designed to be the standard edition to replace Monroe and Allen.

Plenty of Shakespeare is "lurid," too, so should we excise it?

User avatar
Paul Derouda
Global Moderator
Posts: 1958
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Paul Derouda » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:23 pm

Well, I don't think West's case is very strong here. Even he adds "probably". I'm not defending his athesis here.

Anyway, I haven't read West's discussion of this passage in his Studies, so I don't know his exact grounds. I'm not sure he has a distaste for lurid, it's more like he just notes a change in tone. I at least don't think anything that's interpolated is necessarily always for the worse.

On the other hand, I think the evidence against the Doloneia is very strong. It's in all the manuscripts, but really I think not bracketing it would be serious mistake. I mean it's all about where you draw the line; maybe with this simile you're right, it's just much too subjective.

I know there's a whole monograph on the Doloneia by someone of the Oralist school I think (Casey Dué I think), I haven't read it yet but for fairness's sake I intend to...

If I think the Doloneia is an interpolation, it doesn't mean I don't like it. It's just a statement of what I believe about the history of the text.

Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2090
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Qimmik » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:04 pm

there's a whole monograph on the Doloneia by someone of the Oralist school I think (Casey Dué I think)
I've read it and don't find it wholly convinging, but it does make a clear and strong case for "hard Parryism," and it argues that Book 10 represents another side of epic warfare--the night-time ambush--with its own specialized vocabulary and themes, and even its own weapons and clothing (non-metallic animal disguises), that doesn't get much play in the Iliad because the fighting is mostly out in the open in the day but finds more parallels in the Odyssey. There doesn't seem to be any way to distinguish book 10 from the rest of the Iliad on linguistic grounds (apart from language appropriate to night-time ambush warfare). And what really leads most people, myself include, to reject Book 10 is what we perceive as unheroic nastiness that seems out of keeping with the rest of the Iliad--we resist including that sort of thing in the Iliad we love, but that's a very subjective reaction, and who's to say that the "original audience" would react the same way?

But I don't think that bracketing any part of the Iliad, apart from very clear, demonstrable instances of interpolation, is appropriate in drawing up a text, because we have only the vaguest ideas about the processes by which the Homeric poems came into existence and about their early history. With minor exceptions, we can't tell what's interpolated and what isn't with so little concrete information about the history of the text. So, in my view, editors have no business tampering with the paradosis, expecially since the paradosis is relatively uniform and, unlike, say, tragedy, in relatively good shape, with few passages in need of radical surgery. In the case of the Homeric poems, suspicions and theories about interpolation belong in the apparatus and commentaries, not in the text itself.

The wolf simile is just one instance of what I think is the wrong approach on West's part. On the other hand, he offers a very good apparatus, noting even tiny variants in diacritical marks, and very full testimonia (though it's a little hard to separate the wheat from the chaff).

Ahab
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 2:22 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Ahab » Thu Apr 11, 2013 1:31 am

Paul Derouda wrote:He calls the simile "a somewhat lurid rhapsodic interpolation, probably" in the Making of the Iliad. I don't have access now to his Studies book were he'll have a full treatment.
Fortunately I do have access to his Studies book. Here is his discussion of the question:
West wrote: Hentze pointed out that the simile was intended to illustrate the Myrmidons’ courage and eagerness for the fight, and that 160-3, where the description untypically moves on to a second scene and the purpose is lost sight of, might be an interpolation. Leaf adds that the lines contain several strange expressions, ‘and one cannot but feel a reluctant suspicon that the directeness of the Epic style would be better preserved by the excision of 158-64 altogether. We thus get rid of the ἡγήτορες ἠδε μέδοντες (164), so that it is the whole body (πάντας 156) which is compared to the herd of wolves, as it should be.’ So also, but more decidedly, Wilamowitz (1916), 125. The excision re-unites οἳ δέ in 156 with its verb ῥώοντο in 166.

I have bracketed 165 in addition. Patroclus’ preparations have been described separately (130-54), and he then, apart from 165, disappeares until 219. The Myrmidons are pictured rallying about their usual leader, Achilles (155, 166, 168, 198 ff.) Patroclus’ appearance beside Achilles in 165-6 is awkward. If 165 is removed together with 156-64 we get a perfectly seamless join:
..................................... οἳ δὲ λύκοι ὥς
ὠμοφάγοι, τοῖσίν τε περὶ φρεσὶν ἄσπετος ἀκή,
ῥώοντ’. ἐν δ’ ἄρα τοῖσιν ἀρήϊος ἵστατ’ Ἀχιλλεύς
ὀτρύνων ἵππους τε καὶ ἀνέρας ἀσπιδιώτας.
I share your preference for bracketing.

Of course, as Qimmik has pointed out, we are never going to know if West is right about this (unless there really is an afterlife:-) ).
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!
---Robert Browning

Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2090
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Qimmik » Thu Apr 11, 2013 12:11 pm

West's explanation illustrates perfectly his willfully self-indulgent tampering with the text of the Iliad. He's rewriting it to make it what he thinks is a better poem. It drives me crazy.

A great edition, but a perverse text. And to my mind it's a shame that a text like this will from now on be treated as the reference text to replace Munroe and Allen.

User avatar
Paul Derouda
Global Moderator
Posts: 1958
Joined: Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:39 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Paul Derouda » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:36 pm

Thanks, Ahab.

So the grounds for the bracketing here are mostly just stylistic. I agree that this is very, very subjective. Qimmik is right that an innocent reader might be misled since he probably woudln't be able distinguish this from say an obvious concordance interpolation. West's text is clearly for a reader who thinks for himself. But I think less advanced readers will be attracted to other editions anyway - the OCT Is available for free online, the Loeb has a translation, van Thiel takes just one volume etc. Clearly what attracts readers to West will be the extensive critical apparatus.

Qimmik's right to say that we don't know much about the origin of the text. But I think many of the analysts' and West's insights of grammatical, stylistic and plot inconsistencies are real, whether or not West's explanation of them is correct. I think pointing these out is important, because they are real phenomena that can help us to understand the origin of the text, even if it's difficult to be sure of them in many individual cases. Anyway, the present climate especially in the american oralist school is such that if West didn't do this no one would, which I think would be a pity for the study of the Homeric question in general. In Nagy's review of West it was noted that he lacks engagement with oral poetry - but I think that hard core Oralists lack engagement with the Homer, even if they have succeeded in bringing in a more cross disciplinary approach. Because really almost all those scholars who did the really hard technical work on Homer like Chantraine were analysts...

As for the Doloneia, I think the argument that a different subject matter calls for a different vocabulary etc. and is only to be expected is circular. And I think we can say the Doloneia has very different outlook from the rest of the Iliad without passing a judgment (in the same way I think it's wrong to say that the Odyssey isn't as good as the Iliad because it's outlook is different - but it would be wrong to say the difference isn't there). I think strong arguments have been made about the language of the Doloneia being different, although I'm not capable of telling them from memory. But the most important ground for athetising the Doloneia is that it's the only section of any lenght in the Iliad that can be excised without trace - nothing before it anticipates it and nothing afterwards refers back to it, although references backwards and forwards are otherwise common.

Ahab
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 78
Joined: Sun May 08, 2011 2:22 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Ahab » Fri Apr 12, 2013 10:06 pm

Paul,
Thanks for the interesting post.
Pretty much agree with what you have written.

Wanted to add to your list of available editions of the Iliad the one which is online at the Chicago Homer website. It is an amalgam of the Perseus and van Thiel's edition per the website description:

"We collated the Perseus texts of Homer with the electronic version of Helmut von Thiel's (sic) text, and where the texts diverge, we followed that text in most instances. Von Thiel's (sic) edition has a marked preference for the readings of the vulgate text, on the sensible ground that this is the text that was read through much of antiquity."

I've actually copied that text and have it (along with several others) on my iPad for reading. (Which is, according to the website, legal as long as the copy is for private use only.)

As you indicated, West's edition currently has a big stumbling block against its adoption as the new standard edition that has nothing to do with the quality (or lack thereof) of West's scholarship : it is not very easy to obtain. Fortunately van Thiel's edition is now back in print. Interestingly, I think Janko mentions somewhere (though I can't at the moment recall where) that he prefer's Leaf's edition.

By the way, I just received West's latest work The Epic Cycle in the mail yesterday. Looking forward to having an opportunity to read it over the weekend. :)
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!
---Robert Browning

Qimmik
Textkit Zealot
Posts: 2090
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:15 pm

Re: M. L. West's edition of the Iliad

Post by Qimmik » Tue Apr 23, 2013 5:09 pm

If you're looking for West's edition of the Iliad and can't make De Gruyter's website work, you can probably order it through Schoenhof's in Cambridge, MA (if you're in the US): http://www.schoenhofs.com/

or, in the UK,

Thornton's: http://www.thorntonsbooks.co.uk/

or Blackwell's in Oxford: http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/jsp/edi ... SHOP52.jsp

or Heffer's in Cambridge (which seems to have been acquired by Blackwell's).

Post Reply