Poetry as Performance

Poetry as Performance : Homer and Beyond

By (author) Gregory Nagy

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To understand the emergence of Homeric poetry as an actual written text, it is essential to trace the history of Homeric performance, from the very beginnings of literacy to the critical era of textual canonisations in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Professor Nagy applies the comparative evidence of oral poetic traditions, including those that survived in literate societies, such as the Provencal troubadour tradition. It appears that a song cannot be fixed as a final written text so long as the oral poetic tradition in which it was created stays alive. So also with Homeric poetry, it is argued that no single definitive text could evolve until the oral traditions in which the epic was grounded became obsolete. In the time of Aristarchus, the gradual movement from relatively fluid to more rigid stages of Homeric transmission reached a near-final point of textualisation.

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  • Paperback | 268 pages
  • 139.7 x 210.82 x 17.78mm | 272.15g
  • 19 Mar 1996
  • CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
  • Cambridge
  • English
  • Cambridge Univ.
  • bibliography, index
  • 0521558484
  • 9780521558488
  • 962,310

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Review quote

"In this technical yet clear book, Nagy explores how the Homeric poems, stemming from an oral tradition that can be traced to the middle of the second millenium BCE, became the written texts of today...Rich in detail, knowledge and scope, Nagy's book (the culmination of years of work) offers a lucid, well-argued approach to these problems. It will interest not only specialists in ancient Greek poetry, but anyone concerned with oral traditions." P. Nieto, Choice

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Back cover copy

With Homeric poetry, it is argued that no single definitive text could evolve until the oral traditions in which the epic was grounded became obsolete. In the watershed era of Aristarchus, around 150 BC, the gradual movement from relatively more fluid to more rigid stages of Homeric transmission reached a near-final point of textualization.

show more