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Meatpoetics of Homer

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(internal evidence for oral performance)

Steeve Reece, St. Olaf College

Re-read Homer's Odyssey 1.1-10, 144-155, 325-371; 4.1-19, 216-305, 315-599; 8.1-103, 246-384, 469-545; 9.1-18; 11.333-384; 12.55-72; 14.191-359, 457-517; 15.340-492; 23.300-343. Optional: Iliad 1.1-7; 2.484-493; 6.342-358; 9.182-198.

1. Who are the bards in Homer? What is their status in the community?

2. Who are the Muses? Why do bards invoke the Muses? (Od. 1.1-10; Il. 1.1-7; 2.484-493; Consult if you wish Hesiod's Theogony 1-115).

3. Within the Homeric epics themselves, under what circumstances is epic verse composed and performed by professional bards? (Od. 1.144-55; 4.1-19; 8.1-103, 246-384, 469-545; 9.1-11)

4. Who comprises the audience of these performances? To what extent are they of mixed gender, class, and age? Where is there evidence of certain people marked out as a special audience?

5. What is the usual subject matter of epic verse, both that of professional bards and of others? What type of song elicits the most praise? (Od. 1.325-371; 4.216-305, 315-599; 8.72-82, 266-366, 485-520; 9.12-18 and 11.333-384 [actually all of books 9-12]; 12.55-72; 14.191-359, 457-517; 15.340-492; 23.300-343; Il. 6.342-358; 9.182-198)

6. Who besides the professional bard, male or female, is able to sing or tell stories in epic verse? How are these non-professional narrators received by their audience? How does their subject matter compare to the professionals? (Od. 4.216-305, 315-599; Od. 9.12-18 and 11.333-384 [i.e. bks 9-12]; 14.191-359, 457-517; 15.340-492; 23.300-343; Il. 9.182-198)

7. How long do performances last?

8. What does the portrayal of the bard within the Homeric epics suggest about the actual performance of these epics by Homer himself and of other types of performances of epic? What does it suggest about the status of Homer as a bard?

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