Homer's Cosmic Fabrication

Homer's Cosmic Fabrication : Choice and Design in the Iliad

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Although scholars routinely state that the Iliad is an "oral poem," since very near the time of its composition the great epic has circulated as a text stabilized in writing. Thus whether or not it is in some sense "oral poetry," the Iliad undoubtedly has features that render it quite satisfactory to readers and reading. But the question of what these features might be has been difficult for modern Homeric scholarship even to frame, much less address, within the research paradigm of "oral poetics." In Homer's Cosmic Fabrication Bruce Heiden delineates a new approach aimed at evaluating what the Iliad furnishes to readers that makes it comprehensible and engaging. His program conceptualizes the act of reading as a flexible repertoire of cognitive functions that a reader might deploy in collaboration with the poem's signs. By positing certain functions hypothetically and applying them to the poem, Heiden's experiments uncover the kind and degree of suitable "reading material" the poem provides. These analyses reveal that the trajectory of events in the Iliad manifests the central agency of one character, Zeus, and that the transmitted articulation of the epic into chapter-like "books" conforms to distinct narrative subtrajectories. The analyses also show, however, that the fixed sequence of "books" functions suitably as a design that cues attention to the major crises in the story, as well as to themes that develop its significance. The transmitted arrangement therefore furnishes an implicit cognitive map that both eases comprehension of the storyline and indicates previously unexplored pathways of interpretation. Through Homer's Cosmic Fabrication enthusiasts of the Iliad will gain enhanced understanding of the epic's poetic design and the philosophical rewards it offers to thoughtful study.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 272 pages
  • 158 x 236 x 14mm | 521.63g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 33 line illustrations
  • 0195341074
  • 9780195341072

Review quote

Homer's Cosmic Fabrication is a comprehensive work of considerable originality that not only succeeds in making sense of the Iliad's structure, but renders it in a theoretical framework that takes account of variations in the literary transaction as experienced by different readers, without sacrificing the search for a unifying (as opposed to a univocal) reading. The way Heiden argues that the poem was designed for reading adds a whole new dimension to a long-standing and heated argument and, I believe, may be effective in reorienting debate. * John Peradotto, State University of New York at Buffalo * Heiden provides a useful break from Homeric scholarship's preoccupations with oral performance and the poetic tradition. Through close attention to the structure of the text, he identifies the definitive role of Zeus in the Iliad's narrative and traces the growing importance of creative fabrication as the means by which both gods and humans achieve their ends. By showing how the poem's organization fosters and rewards the activity of sense-making, Heiden illuminates the Iliad's ongoing appeal to audiences of all types and periods. * Sheila Murnaghan, University of Pennsylvania *show more

About Bruce Heiden

Bruce Heiden is Professor of Greek and Latin at The Ohio State University.show more

Table of contents

Introduction: Reading, Choice, and Design ; Part I: Dramatic Legibility and Poetic Design ; Chapter One: Persons, Problems, and Choices: The Progression of Events in the Iliad ; Chapter Two: Event Trajectories in the "Books" of the Iliad ; Chapter Three: The Iliad: An Epic in Three Cycles ; Chapter Four: Paths of Thought: Iliad Cycle I ; Part II: Reading Thematic Trajectories ; Chapter Five: Replacements and Representatives: The Quarrel (Cycle I, Column A) and the Embassy (Cycle II, Column A) ; Chapter Six: Zeus's Changing Plans: Cycles I and II, Column Z (Books 8 and 15) ; Chapter Seven: Homeric Sublimity: Iliad Book 24 ; Conclusion: The Fabricated Cosmos and the Poetry of the Futureshow more

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