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Homer and the Epic Cycle: dialogue and challenge

Lambrou, I; (2015) Homer and the Epic Cycle: dialogue and challenge. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

In this thesis, we revisit a longstanding problem, the relationship between Homer and the fragmentarily preserved post-Homeric narrative poems of the so-called Epic Cycle. The approach adopted has affinities with the school of criticism known as Neoanalysis, which, originating in continental Europe as an alternative to the Parry- Lord oral-formulaic theory, sought to explain irregularities found in the Homeric text by assuming re-contextualisation of motifs taken from pre-Homeric epics which were often identified with either written versions or the oral predecessors of the Cyclic epics. Rather than Quellenforschung, however, our emphasis is on Homer‟s interactive engagement with the mythopoetic traditions which were eventually crystallised in the Epic Cycle. And where scholars have so far tended to focus on the inadequacies of the Cyclic epics in the form in which we have them or to consider the complexity that the poems exhibit in presenting Achilles and Odysseus to be later development, our interest is less in the epics themselves, either as aesthetic or as cultural phenomena, than in the poetic strategy through which the Homeric poet, in seeking to position himself within a competitive context of an oral performance culture, engages with this traditional complexity creatively, both synergistically and agonistically. CHAPTER ONE sets the scene by exploring what one may call circumstantial or situational rivalry between epic poets and, on the basis of a review of the evidence, both ancient and comparative, proposes that the circumstances of an early singer- poet were such that they encouraged the emergence of a high degree of competitive interaction among known individuals with a strong interest in personal fame. CHAPTERS TWO and THREE, shifting their focus from context to texture, explore how complex and manifold mythopoetic traditions about Achilles and Odysseus find their way into the narrative fabric of the Iliad and the Odyssey, respectively, through a sophisticated and self-reflexive type of poetic interaction that includes both compliance and contestation with the wider epic tradition. The competitive dimension of early epic storytelling has in the recent past been either overemphasised or seriously underestimated. This thesis argues that early epic competition, though much less pronounced than often assumed, is reflected in the artistically ambitious refining and distillation process that the Iliad and the Odyssey develop in adjusting divergent mythological and poetic traditions to their own idiosyncratic presentation of Achilles and Odysseus. A close intra-generic reading of the Homeric text and the fragments of the Epic Cycle in the light of suggestive evidence we have for the phenomenon of epic competitiveness can ultimately contribute to a critical understanding of the dynamics of the early Greek epic performance and of Homer‟s position within it.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Homer and the Epic Cycle: dialogue and challenge
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1462583
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