Review of West's Odyssey

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Ahab
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Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Ahab » Wed Jan 09, 2019 1:07 pm

Review by Barbara Graziosi and Johannes Haubold at BMCR:

http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2019/2019-01-05.html
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

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Hylander » Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:00 pm

Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We've already hashed West's Iliad over ad nauseam here, but I'm gratified to see this criticism of West's "restorative" approach to editing the Homeric poems by two eminent Homeric scholars (husband and wife, if I'm not mistaken, like Martin and Stephanie West), much as I admire and respect West's enormous contributions to ancient Greek scholarship.

It's a small point and maybe I'm petty for singling it out, but I'm particularly glad to see that not everyone is in agreement with, and there are valid arguments against, the "restoration" of εο everywhere where the traditional text has ευ, which is a particular irritant for me in West's texts.

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Paul Derouda
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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Paul Derouda » Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:11 pm

While West's restorations aren't quite as disturbing as, for example, Fick's digammas, perhaps indeed we would be better without them. Whether they are correct or not, it's true that they are rather subjective.

The reviewers assert that "To be blunt, the work of Milman Parry makes too little impact on West’s edition of the Odyssey", on two grounds. "The first is that formulaic analysis and oral poetics help to explain the Homeric paradosis and therefore offer important insights for establishing the text. The second is that Parry’s approach to Homeric epic posed new questions – some of which still cause debate and disagreement today."

As far as the first of these is concerned, I like the example given at the end of the review, according to which ἐν σπήεσσι γλαφυροῖσι is a formula modeled on ἐν νήεσσι γλαφυροῖσι, and thus the reviewers reject West's σπέεσι.

As far as the second ground is concerned, the reviewers think that West should have been more alert to current controversies - meaning especially the so-called "Homeric multitext". But I think West has rejected it firmly enough elsewhere. This has be discussed ad infinitum here, so I'll leave it to this.

Let me quote one paragraph in full.
For example, at Od. 1.208 the manuscripts and one papyrus transmit γάρ, whereas Aristophanes and Aristarchus recommend μέν. West, following Bekker, Ludwich, Ameis-Hentze and others, adopts the latter reading, but this is almost certainly wrong – and it is instructive to see why. It is standard in Homer to cap a request for information or action (ἀλλ’ ἄγε + imperative or hortative) with a reason for making it: ‘So come now … (I ask this) because, γάρ …’. In this case: ‘So, tell me: are you the son of Odysseus, so grown up as you are? For you look strikingly like him…’ The alternative, a μέν-clause after ἀλλ’ ἄγε … is unidiomatic in early Greek epic, and may even sound rude, since the request is not followed by an explanation, as is usual in such instances. Now Athena, especially in the guise of Mentes, is a paragon of good manners, so the question then becomes why Aristophanes and Aristarchus preferred μέν to γάρ in this passage. At a general level, Hellenistic scholars took an interest in Homeric particles and often championed alternatives to the received text. In this particular case, μέν, rather than transmitted γάρ, may have appealed to them because it creates a pleasing correspondence with δέ in line 212: ‘You look much like Odysseus when I still saw him regularly (μέν) – but (δέ) since the war I have not seen him’. The fact that the scholia describe μέν as having ‘a certain appeal’ (ἔχει τι εἶδος ἡ γραφὴ αὕτη) suggests that Aristophanes and Aristarchus argued along these lines. Replacing γάρ with μέν (even if, with modern scholars, we take μέν for μήν) involves reading the passage backwards, starting at the end, and articulating it as a prose-like complex period. This is not, on the whole, how Homeric epic worked: Egbert Bakker and others have shown how hexameter versification builds up by forward momentum, rather than backtracking rearrangement.
I'm not a scholar and a great deal here is beyond my competence. In the end, it comes to whom we consider the best judge of Homeric usage - West, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus, or Graziosi, Haubold, and Didymus (for the apparatus here has "μὲν Arph Ar: γὰρ (nov. Did) 261 tt Ω", which, as far as I understand, means that Didymus rejects Aristarchus' reading. But what does Aristophanes'/Aristarchus' reading exactly mean - a reading that stood in their reading text, or a reading they considered correct?). However, the final note is not really to the point, I think - "hexameter versification builds up by forward momentum, rather than backtracking rearrangement". Really, "backtracking rearrangement"? To me, it's just μέν - δέ as usual. Whether the reading should be αἰνῶς μέν or αἰνῶς γάρ is beyond me, but this line of argument doesn't seem very astute to me either. Better grounds for retaining γάρ are given in a footnote: "[...] neither αἰνῶς μέν nor αἰνῶς μήν can be paralleled in early Greek epic, whereas αἰνῶς γάρ is formulaic both in this position and elsewhere in the hexameter line: Il. 10.93, 24.198, Od. 4.597, 17.24 (αἰνῶς γάρ in verse-initial position); cf. HAp. 64 (‒ᴗᴗ αἰνῶς γάρ …), Od. 1.264, 4.441, 22.136, Hes. fr. 29.6 M-W (γὰρ αἰνῶς at line-end)".

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by mwh » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:26 am

It’s a good review, no question. I especially like the stress on analogical formations, because I once proposed on similar grounds (with a mention of Milman Parry that Erbse took exception to) that … δακρυον ειβων originated in the singularizing of … δακρυα λειβων under formulaic pressure (similarly πατριδος αιης < πατριδα γαιαν etc.), and it’s high time someone followed up on this line of analysis.

And we shouldn’t forget that alongside Parry there have been other no less groundbreaking insights, Manu Leumann’s Homerische Wörter among them. Americans become increasingly averse to learning other languages (this doesn’t apply to Graziosi or Haubold of course), and most American scholarship is distressingly parochialized. West had the advantage over one-note Nagy there, and in many other respects too.

As to μεν vs. γαρ at Od.1.208, I have little doubt they’re right to champion the transmitted γαρ, though like Paul (whom I’d describe as an amateur scholar, which is often the best kind) I think it’s nonsense to suggest that μεν “involves reading the passage backwards.”

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Ahab » Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:32 am

Paul Derouda wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:11 pm
As far as the second ground is concerned, the reviewers think that West should have been more alert to current controversies - meaning especially the so-called "Homeric multitext". But I think West has rejected it firmly enough elsewhere. This has be discussed ad infinitum here, so I'll leave it to this.
I think the reviewers' criticism was motivated by the fact that this controversial claim has become so influential that it needed to be addressed by West in this edition. So the fact that West has given his reasons for rejecting it elsewhere is besides the point.

Interestingly the reviewers link to an article by Professor Steve Reece which provides some cogent criticisms of the 'Homeric multitext'. The article can be found here: https://www.academia.edu/30640501/Homer ... itten_Text.

Have to admit that much of what they wrote in the review was well above my level of competence in this area.
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

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Hylander » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:02 am

"Better grounds for retaining μέν . . . " I think you mean "Better grounds for retaining γὰρ . . . "

I'm not sure what West means by "nov[it?] Did". Didymus knew the variant γὰρ but read μὲν himself?
In the end, it comes to whom we consider the best judge of Homeric usage - West, Aristophanes, and Aristarchus, or Graziosi, Haubold, and Didymus (for the apparatus here has "μὲν Arph Ar: γὰρ (nov. Did) 261 tt Ω", which, as far as I understand, means that Didymus rejects Aristarchus' reading. But what does Aristophanes'/Aristarchus' reading exactly mean - a reading that stood in their reading text, or a reading they considered correct?).
I think what West's citation of Aristophanes (of Byzantium) and Aristarchus means is that the A scholia mention that the variant μὲν was preferred by Aristophanes and Aristarchus, though for what reason isn't known, beyond the suggestion by Graziosi and Haubold that those scholars liked to tinker with Homeric participles,

But it's not just Didymus (maybe), Graziosi and Haubold who read γὰρ: it's all the medieval manuscripts and a papyrus (as well as two testimonia, for what they're worth).

I'm certainly not in West's league when it comes to Homer (or anything else), but it seems to me that his change of γὰρ to μὲν is almost perverse. Besides the evidence that αἰνῶς γάρ is formulaic, αἰνῶς γάρ continues and explains what Athene/Mentes has just said. "Tell me whether you are the son of Odysseus. For you look terribly like him, since I used to see him often before he went to Troy . . . " γὰρ follows and highlights the key word αἰνῶς, which continues Athene/Mentes remark about Telemachus being the son of Odysseus. μὲν in fact abruptly leaves what follows without a connective to what precedes, which strikes me as un-Homeric and un-Greek.

δ' doesn't occur until four lines later, and it's just an afterthought: "But I haven't seen him since then." There's no point to μεν/δε contrasting "before he went to Troy" with "since then" here: the point of the γὰρ clause is that Telemachus looks very much like Odysseus "and I know because I used to see him a lot."

I have to question why West thought it better to substitute a reading mentioned as a variant in the scholia for a reading in all of the medieval manuscripts (at least those that he used in preparing his text) and ancient manuscripts (as well as the testimonia, for whatever they're worth), a reading that is perfectly fine as it is and doesn't require emendation. It's a small point, but I think it goes back to his notion -- which makes me very uncomfortable -- that he can restore the text to his imaginary 7th century original, which licenses him to disregard the manuscripts even when there's nothing wrong with their text.

Cross-posted with mwh and Ahab.

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by jeidsath » Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:15 am

I liked the review, though I would have loved to have seen West’s rejoinder. I disagree with the objection to the testimonia. It does give a clearer view of the tradition, I’m not worried about easily impressioned readers, and their own criticism of West’s use of it couldn’t have been made without having it there. Phooey about the cost. Paper is cheap and the price is driven by other things. It represents a few dozen cents per volume at most (probably less).
West also includes in his edition an enormous apparatus of testimonia, which contribute little to the constitution of the text, as he himself points out: p. IX. The stated reason for including them is to give a clearer view of the tradition, but this seems problematic, for two reasons. If by ‘tradition’ we mean the diffusion of the Odyssey in antiquity, then the modern reader would be better served by a discussion that did not draw an artificial line between testimonia and other forms of paraphrase and allusion. If, on the other hand, the aim is to assess the relative weight of individual readings, it would be important to be selective: most of the testimonia originate in ancient scholarship and, as van Thiel points out, ‘ancient scholars display a strong tendency to depend upon one another’.7 West claims that his testimonia, as well as giving a general impression of the tradition, are useful for confirming medieval variants as old, and for illustrating levels of interpolation in antiquity. These aims, however, do not seem to us to require an apparatus of such length (and cost). More worryingly, the reader can easily be impressed by a long string of mutually dependent testimonia and grant them greater authority than they possess. West himself encourages this by using testimonia to boost minority readings. He also introduces otherwise unattested variants into his apparatus criticus on the basis of his collection of testimonia. His use of the Homeric Centos seems particularly problematic in this regard: there is no reason to assume that a line in Eudocia has to match the text of Homer in every last detail.8
Joel Eidsath -- jeidsath@gmail.com

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by mwh » Sat Jan 12, 2019 3:53 am

“nov(it) Did” doesn’t mean (or doesn't necessarily mean) that Didymus rejects Aristarchus’ reading but simply that he “knew” i.e. attests the vulgate reading. (West and Nagy had different views of the nature of Didymus' activity.) That makes him the earliest witness to the existence of γὰρ (just as he's the earliest witness to the existence of μὲν).

It seems we all agree that the vulgate’s γὰρ is better here, but it’s a shame we don’t have West's defense of the Alexandrian reading, for he knew Homer and the textual tradition far better than any of us.

And let’s not get hung up on this particular reading. Wouldn’t it be better to read West’s elucidation of the tradition, which he briefly laid out in his Ilias Praefatio vi-viii (in Latin, but in more detail elsewhere in English)? I think we owe him that before we feel competent to criticize his choices.

Oh, and I agree with Joel’s criticism of the reviewers’ criticism of West’s practice with regard to the testimonia.

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Paul Derouda » Sat Jan 12, 2019 9:04 am

Perhaps it will be useful to quote West's reply to Nagy's review of his Iliad here. (http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2001/2001-09-06.html)
Even without these fuller explanations, however, my two critics might have taken my point (to which they give short shrift) that when Didymus reports the reading of Aristarchus, he does so because the reading is somehow at issue; in other words, he must be aware of a different one, with which Aristarchus' is tacitly contrasted. We can usually identify this different reading, and then it is appropriate to say of it "novit Didymus". This should be obvious, and it is not dependent (as my critics seem to suppose) on my view of Aristarchus' use of manuscripts.

The deployment of "novit Didymus" does not throw up new variants, because we have to know the reading from somewhere else before we can label it in this way. But it does provide a guarantee of antiquity that may not otherwise be available. This is also the principal value of the ancient quotations that I have collected in such numbers. I am sorry that Nagy and Nardelli are not more appreciative of their utility. To the latter I am grateful for a few addenda, though three of the items he claims I have overlooked are actually there in my apparatus, and it is not true that "the references for quotations collected by La Roche and Ludwich were not updated".
What is "obvious" for West isn't obvious for me, so I'm still a bit confused as to what "nov. Did" means in the passage under discussion.
Ahab wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 12:32 am
Paul Derouda wrote:
Fri Jan 11, 2019 7:11 pm
As far as the second ground is concerned, the reviewers think that West should have been more alert to current controversies - meaning especially the so-called "Homeric multitext". But I think West has rejected it firmly enough elsewhere. This has be discussed ad infinitum here, so I'll leave it to this.
I think the reviewers' criticism was motivated by the fact that this controversial claim has become so influential that it needed to be addressed by West in this edition. So the fact that West has given his reasons for rejecting it elsewhere is besides the point.
My point is that the edition is really rather compact. The introduction is short and to the point; if West had had time to write a "Text and transmission of the Odyssey", I'm sure he would have addressed the question there. And if he didn't think the "Homeric multitext" to be relevant to the transmission of the Odyssey, there's no reason for him to address it in the apparatus either.
Hylander wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:02 am
"Better grounds for retaining μέν . . . " I think you mean "Better grounds for retaining γὰρ . . . "
Yes. Now I've corrected that.
Hylander wrote:
Sat Jan 12, 2019 1:02 am
But it's not just Didymus (maybe), Graziosi and Haubold who read γὰρ: it's all the medieval manuscripts and a papyrus (as well as two testimonia, for what they're worth).
Yes, but I was (somewhat jocularly) just appealing to authorities. An anonymous medieval manuscript is not an authority you can name. The testimonia are apparently Porphyrius and Nicanor, but without looking them up, I can't tell if they have an opinion on the subject, so I couldn't appeal to them either. What Didymus' opinion was and whether he had one is another question, of course.

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Hylander » Sat Jan 12, 2019 2:28 pm

If I'm not mistaken, West's note reflects the scholion on α 208, which you can read here in Dindorf's edition of the Odyssey scholia (Oxford 1855):

https://archive.org/details/scholiagrca ... /page/n115

Schmidt's edition of Didymus' fragments (Leipzig 1854; were they in competition with one another?) prints the same scholion:

https://archive.org/stream/didymichalce ... 4/mode/2up

So West is simply reporting that the scholion, which is believed to be derived ultimately from Didymus's commentaries (1st c. BCE), notes the variant reading of Aristophanes and Aristarchus (3rd - 2nd cc. BCE) (which, the scholion says, "has some plausibility"). That seems to be what "nov. Did" means: readings attributed to Aristophanes and Aristarchus reported in scholia believed to be derived from the work of Didymus. There doesn't seem to be any indication of which reading Didymus himself preferred: "nov. Did" means only that he reported the readings of the two earlier scholars.

To the extent that the notiation "nov. Did" conveys the impression that it is a source independent of readings attributed to Aristarchus and Aristophanes, I feel it's somewhat misleading, but I think West explains what he's doing somewhere.

I believe there's a question of whether Didymus prepared an edition of his own, based on original research, or whether he simply compiled work done by his predecessors, and also a question of what Aristophanes and Aristarchus were doing: did they root around in older manuscripts to find variant readings, or did they simply make emendations based on their own conjectures, and what was the basis for their editorial choices? These issues have been simmering since the middle of the 19th century, and, I think it's fair to say, haven't been (and probably never will be) resolved to the universal satisfaction of the community of Homeric scholars.

We do know that Aristarchus arbitrarily excised material he though was sacrilegious, which is perhaps reason to be somewhat suspicious of the reported interventions of the Alexandrians. But by the same token, we don't have a clear picture of how the paradosis -- the text reflected in the medieval manuscripts and post-Hellenistic papyri -- came into being.
Last edited by Hylander on Sun Jan 13, 2019 5:06 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by Hylander » Sat Jan 12, 2019 11:19 pm

Here's how West explains "nov. Did" in the preface to his edition of the Odyssey (p.vii):
Si quam Aristarchi lectionem laudat Didymus, ideo laudat ut eam alteri cuidam contraponat: cuinam, saepe non dicitur in scholiis, sed raro in dubio est, quae fuerit. Huic in apparatu 'nov. Did' appono, ne te lateat, eam quoque antiquam fuisse.
"If Didymus commends any reading of Didymus, he commends it in such a way as to contrast it with some other one: which one is often not reported in the scholia, but it's rarely in question which one it was. To that reading I mark 'nov. Didymus' in the apparatus so that the fact that it's also an ancient reading won't escape you."

This is not different from what Paul reported from West's 2001 response to critical reviews of his Iliad in BMCR.

I'm still confused, too.

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Re: Review of West's Odyssey

Post by mwh » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:22 am

I don’t see why anyone should be confused about this.
“If Didymus cites a reading of Aristarchus he cites it for the purpose of setting it against some other reading: just what reading is often not stated in the scholia, but what it was is rarely in doubt.” In this kind of Latin laudat simply means “cites,” not “commends.” West is simply repeating what he had said in English in the passage that Paul quotes from his Iliad edition.
The reasoning seems sound to me. The point of the notation is to certify the antiquity of the non-Aristarchan reading (here gar, the subsequent vulgate). This ought to gratify defenders of the vulgate text, but for some reason it doesn’t.
Whether men was a conjecture by Aristophanes approved by Aristarchus or an older inherited reading there is nothing to show, or nothing other than our assessment of the practice of the Alexandrian scholars. My own view(but perhaps not West's) is that it may well have been a conjecture, but not one intended to supplant gar.

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