The Art and Rhetoric of the Homeric Catalogue

The Art and Rhetoric of the Homeric Catalogue

The Art and Rhetoric of the Homeric Catalogue

The Art and Rhetoric of the Homeric Catalogue

Synopsis

In The Art and Rhetoric of the Homeric Catalogue, Benjamin Sammons takes a fresh look at a familiar element of the Homeric epics -- the poetic catalogue. This study uncovers the great variety of functions fulfilled by the catalogue as a manner of speech within very different contexts, ranging from celebrated examples such as the poet's famous "Catalogue of Ships," to others less commonly treated under this rubric, such as catalogues within the speech and rhetoric of Homer's characters. Sammons shows that catalogue poetry is no ossified or primitive relic of the old tradition, but a living subgenre of poetry that is used by Homer in a creative and original way. He finds that catalogues may be used by the poet or his characters to reflect -- or distort -- the themes of the poem at large, to impose an interpretation on events as they unfold, and possibly to allude to competing poetic traditions or even contemporaneous poems. Throughout, the study focuses on how Homer uses his catalogue to talk about the epic genre itself: to explore the boundaries of the heroic world, the limits of heroic glory, and the ideals and realities of his own traditional role as an epic bard. Building on a renewed interest in the "literary list" in other disciplines, Sammons shows that Homer is not only one of the earliest known practitioners of the poetic catalogue, but one of the subtlest and most skillful.

Excerpt

This book began its life as a doctoral dissertation at New York University. That work was supervised by David Sider, to whom I owe my greatest debt of gratitude; it was much improved through the careful reading and acute advice of Michèle Lowrie, Phillip Mitsis, Joel Lidov, Laura Slatkin, and John Gibert. I remain under obligation to the rest of the faculty and graduate students at the NYU Department of Classics for intellectual and moral support; my early mentor, the late Seth Benardete, deserves special mention. For detailed feedback on my initial book manuscript, I am indebted to Ruth Scodel and an anonymous reader for Oxford University Press. At various stages, this work was read by Pietro Pucci, Christopher A. Faraone, Joel P. Christensen, and Umit Singh Dhuga, all of whom provided invaluable feedback and encouragement. Thanks are also due to my editor, Stefan Vranka, and the production staff at OUP. A portion of chapter 3 appeared earlier in the Classical Journal; it is reprinted here by kind permission of that journal, and was much improved through the editorial efforts of S. Douglas Olson.

A note on my rather inconsistent treatment of ancient Greek names: In the case of famous and well-known figures, I have sometimes chosen the Latinized forms (e.g., “Achilles” instead of “Achilleus,” “Ajax” instead of “Aias”) on the basis that these will be more familiar to my reader. In the case of less familiar figures, I use a transliterated form (e.g., “Protesilaos” for “Protesilaus”), generally without marking long versus short vowels. All quotations of Homer are from the Oxford Classical Text of Monro and Allen; quotations of Hesiod are from the Oxford Classical Text of Merkelback and West; quotations of the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women are from the Fragmenta Hesiodea of Merkelbach . . .

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