Who was Homer? Or, to put it another way, who wrote Homer?

Go Into Milman Parry, who break on the scene in the late 1920 s and became a professor at Harvard University in1929 Parry utilized textual analysis, anthropology, and field work to show that pre-literate or semi-literate peoples could, in reality, recite long poems. Inspired by the Slavicist Matija Murko, who attended his thesis defense at the Sorbonne, Parry headed to the hills of what is now called Bosnia in the early 1930 s. There he utilized aluminum disks to tape-record pre-literate bards, guslari, who performed epske pjesme, epic oral songs. These bards used “ the extremely same kinds of structures and patterns that Parry had discovered in the texts of Homer,” according to the late oral-communications scholar John Miles Foley.

” Rather of interpreting the Iliad and the Odyssey as either conventionally authored works or pieced-together editions, Milman Parry depicted them as the items of a generations-long process of structure in performance,” Foley wrote. This assisted reinvent the way we understand the oral origins of epic poetry. Here’s Parry in his own words on making use of formulaic verse by Homer and the guslari As Foley put it succinctly, “These guslari composed their impressive poetry Homerically.”

Parry passed away tragically in 1935, cutting short a dazzling career at the age of thirty-three.

Parry’s acoustic recordings comprise a “half-ton of epic,” as Albert Lord described them, and they’re now kept in the Milman Parry Collection of Oral Literature at Harvard. By setting to work when he did, Parry’s timing was extraordinary. Recording devices had actually ended up being portable enough. And the guslari still existed.

But Parry’s unforeseen death from a gunshot injury seems to have actually triggered all sorts of urban legends– or what you may call oral traditions.

Classics professor Steve Reece explores the shooting and the folklore about Parry that developed in subsequent years. He’s been referred to as a working-class hero/chicken farmer who ran up against Harvard snobbery and killed himself in despair when he wasn’t provided tenure. He was compared to Alexander the Great (likewise dead at thirty-three);-LRB- T. E. Lawrence, who died in a ridiculous road accident simply months before Parry; and even to Ajax, who “killed himself out of anger and discouragement over not getting the armor of Achilles.” Reece goes to the paperwork to diligently deconstruct the Parry-myths in the context of the fluidity of oral customs. Though filled in corporate narratives and televisual plots, we seemingly still comprise songs about heroes.


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JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, scientists, and trainees. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.

By: John Miles Foley

College Literature, Vol. 34, No. 2, Checking Out Homer in the 21 st Century (Spring, 2007), pp. 1-28

The Johns Hopkins University Press

By: Milman Parry

Deals and Procedures of the American Philological Association, Vol. 64 (1933), pp. 179-197

The Johns Hopkins University Press

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