Greek Mythology and Poetics by Gregory Nagy

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By Gregory Nagy

"In this tremendous wealthy quantity, the Harvard classicist G. Nagy examines a number of points of the Hellenizaton of Indo-European poetics, fable and formality, and social ideology."―The magazine of Indo-European reports, Spring/Summer 1993
About the Author
Gregory Nagy is Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard collage and Director of Harvard s middle for Hellenic stories in Washington, D.C.

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C f. Kelly 1974. 28 The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics The kind of epos that you say is the kind of epos that you will hear in turn about yourself. The most striking feature of this Aeneas/Achilles episode is that the Iliad in Book XX actually allows part of the Aeneas tradition to assert itself at the expense of Achilles, who had taunted Aeneas by predicting that he will never replace Priam as king of Troy (XX 178-183). The god Poseidon himself then predicts the opposite (XX 302-308); the dynasty of Aeneas will prevail in the Troad, and there will be a vindication of his minis ‘anger* against King Priam (XIII 460-461)—a theme that finds a parallel in the minis ‘anger’ of Achilles against King Agamemnon in Iliad Book I, verses 1 and following.

Cf. the bibliographi­ cal discussion in [M. 188-201. 65 Pany 1928b. 64 Hainsworth 1968. 65 And yet, flexibil­ ity should not be confused with irregularity. Hainsworth’s study of flexi­ bility in Homeric phraseology shows really just the opposite of irregular­ ity, in that the processes whereby one formula is transformed into another, with different metrical position, inflection, qualifier, and so on, are themselves highly regulated. The flexibility is also regular. In other words, the variations on the regularities are also regular.

15 See pp. 21ff. 14 Edwards 1971. 15 See pp. 23ff. 40 The Hellenization of Indo-European Poetics poems, much as we have eliminated it as a factor in their performance. The absence of writing would suit, at least superficially, the findings of Parry and Lord: in the South Slavic traditions, oral poetry and literacy are incompatible. But now we have to reckon with a new problem, one raised by the study of oral poetry itself. The findings of Parry and Lord also suggest that composition and performance are aspects of the same process in oral poetry, and that no poet’s composition is ever identical even to his previous composition of the “same” poem at a previous per­ formance, in that each performance entails a recomposition of the poet’s inherited material.

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