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"In the city of my birth, I had a dream..."
Homer was actually a WOMAN. 
27th-Jul-2006 09:45 am
Or so argues historian and linguist at large Andrew Dalby in his new book, Rediscovering Homer. Though examination of "The Illiad" and "The Odyssey" for gendered textual clues will always by necessity result in specious argument, Dalby argues quite believably that only an aristocratic "kept" woman would have had the means, patience, and motivation to have such unprecedentedly long oral poems written down. Which would have required literal weeks sequestered in a private place alone with a scribe and God only knows how much more time in advance practicing aloud what would eventually be written down without the automatic acclaim of an audience. Would a talented and popular MALE oral poet have likely agreed to those terms when the result would be something there had never been a public demand for before? Well, MAYBE. But a woman, idle and used to being shut in with nothing better to do than practice her poetry, would seem to be the obvious natural candidate for such an endeavor.

Well. Color me convinced. After all, which gender wrote Genji Monogatari? ^_~
27th-Jul-2006 02:17 pm (UTC)
hm, that's really an interesting supposition.

I've read though, and remember one of my professors talking about this, that nowadays a lot of scholars think that although both are credited to a "Homer", "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey" were very possibly written by different people. I don't know exactly what evidence there might be to support this anymore but they seem suitably different in tone and style that I could believe they were composed by two distinct entities.
27th-Jul-2006 02:26 pm (UTC)
That's a popular argument because the stories have different textual inconsistencies. But, well, that's all explained by the realities of oral storytelling. Some specific person wrote (or rather had the stories) written down...and whether they were originally composed by a man named Homer or just by an aggregation of tradition, this writer (who Dalby argues was female) by the realities of oral tradition made the stories and verse his (her) own.
27th-Jul-2006 02:32 pm (UTC)
True. I suppose contextual inconsistency is kind of a weak argument when you think about it, though nowadays she/he would probably have been more inclined to change the written account of the oral story to suit her "grand narrative".
27th-Jul-2006 05:20 pm (UTC)
It reminds me a lot of what scholars say about Beowulf, actually. A literate person (most likely a monk) familiar with the old oral tradition took it upon himself to retell the story on paper.

One thing that does occur to me, though: Why don't we know exactly who gave us the text versions of Illiad and Odyssey? You'd think a MAN with the talent, money, and energy to get the verse on paper would also have added his own name to it. The very fact that we don't know who wrote the stories might arguably point to a female writer (women just aren't worth remembering, you know?).

After all, the monk who wrote Beowulf is unknown because monks were supposed to be humble, and which specific monk did it wouldn't have been so important either.
27th-Jul-2006 03:02 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of The Book of J.
28th-Jul-2006 12:46 am (UTC)
It does sound very likely, doesn't it? She wouldn't exactly be the only woman to use a male pseudonym.
30th-Jul-2006 10:51 am (UTC)
Very interesting. I'm checking that book out as soon as I get back to MHC. :)
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