A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

Synopsis

Comprehensive commentaries on the Homeric texts abound, but this commentary concentrates on one major aspect of the Odyssey--its narrative art. The role of narrator and narratees, methods of characterization and scenery description, and the development of the plot are discussed. The study aims to enhance our understanding of this masterpiece of European literature. All Greek references are translated and technical terms are explained in a glossary. It is directed at students and scholars of Greek literature and comparative literature.

Excerpt

This commentary differs in a number of respects from traditional commentaries. The latter may be broadly defined as heterogeneous, problem-oriented, and micro-textual: they consist of philological, linguistic, literary, or historical notes on mostly small parts of the text which had been deemed difficult by previous commentators–aformat which goes back to the historical forerunners of our commentaries, the lemmatic scholia. This narratological commentary covers the whole text, not only the problematic parts, deals exclusively with its narrative aspects, and includes a discussion of the macro-textual and meso-textual levels.

I use the term 'narratological' here in a broad sense. The word 'narratology' was coined in 1969 by Todorov, but the theoretical interest in narrative actually started much earlier, when novelists like Gustave Flaubert and Henry James set out to 'defend' their art by means of technical discussions. Next, it was the Russian formalists at the beginning of the twentieth century and the French structuralists of the nineteen-sixties who developed a set of refined tools to analyse narrative texts. When narratology was introduced into classical scholarship, one of the first texts to which it was applied was Homer, and this means that there exists a large body of narratological analysis of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. So much for narratology in the strict sense of the word. When dealing with the Homeric epics, however, there is much more. Through the ages Homeric scholarship has produced a wealth of information on narrative aspects of the poems. We have the exegetical scholia of antiquity, the interpretations by Unitarians, the analyses of type-scenes by oralists, and the close readings by non-oralists. Thus the methodological pillars on which this commentary rests include studies by narratologists like Genette and Bal, oralists like Edwards and Fenik, and non-oralists like Besslich and Lohmann. To some, this may seem like irresponsible eclecticism, but it has always been my firm conviction–one which I have defended at numerous places–that when analysing the storytelling in a text, the genesis of that text, though not irrelevant, is not of prime importance.

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