Homer’s Traditional Art. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
A volume devoted to answering the question “What difference does oral tradition make to our understanding of the Iliad and Odyssey?” Part I begins the study by investigating the nature of Homeric sêmata (“signs”), both with respect to those items so designated within the epics themselves but also in reference to Homer’s formulas and other “signs” that are encoded with extralexical, metonymic meanings provided by the surrounding tradition. Part II (consisting of Chapters 2-4) then explores in great detail the advantages and limitations of the South Slavic analogy for understanding Homeric poetry, with specific discussions of the figure of the traditional singer, specialized language within the traditions, and the process by which the South Slavic tradition encodes its own “signs” with traditional referentiality. Analysis turns toward the Homeric poems in particular in Part III, with Chapter 5 considering the implications of the Return Song as the story-pattern that underlies the Odyssey and thus heightens the possibly ambiguous nature of Penelope within that epic. Chapter 6 tightens the focus more narrowly by moving down to the level of the type-scene, devoting particular attention to feasts in the Odyssey and laments in the Iliad. Chapter 7 then proceeds to look at even smaller traditional units and meaning embedded within Homeric phraseology. Finally, the volume concludes with an afterword devoted to the Anglo-Saxon Deor and its own particularized employment of traditional “signs.”