Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Homer and gender . . . again.

I'm sure some of you've seen this on rogueclassicism: An epic battle on Homer's gender.

This confuses me, because the article ends with, "The issue, he said, lay in whether the same person wrote both poems. 'Most of us now believe the same person did.'"

I hardly know what the latest arguments on Homer are right now, but I thought we were suspecting different authors? At least, that's the last I heard on the topic.

I also hope this guy is going to advance the argument better than Samuel Butler did in his Authoress of the Odyssey. For one, if you're going to argue subject matter as an indicator of gender, you are sorely mistaken, my friend. Personally, I believe it's entirely possible that a person of either gender wrote both works (or a group of mixed genders, even), and it's pretty ludicrous to believe you can prove it one way or another--short of finding some authoritative text that says something about the author(s) of the Iliad and the Odyssey. Even the programs we have for analyzing English lit for the gender of an author is not all that reliable, and this is a completely different language for which we have relatively few samples!

That leaves us with a whole load of speculation that can be no more than just that--speculation.

I really don't understand the fascination with figuring this one out. And by the GODS, I hope we've advanced far enough in gender issues that this book won't read like Samuel "I'm a patronizing ass" Butler. Um, yeah, I suppose I have some strong feelings about that book.

Ohhh, does anybody remember the Xena episode where Gabrielle meets and inspires Homer?? ;-)


Anonymous Sean M. said...

Since we know nothing about the author(s) of the Iliad and Odyssey who we lable 'Homer', and since the final compiler(s) of each work was/were adapting a highly developed existing tradition, I really doubt this issue is worth a book. I am also unsure how useful such an analysis would be. Interpreting literature in light of the author's experiences and personality is chancy enough even when these are reliably known, not inferred by interpretation of the same works! That said, I won't criticize Dr Dalby's work further without reading it.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Agreed on all accounts. I'm just hoping it'll be better than The Authoress of the Odyssey.

1:25 PM  
Blogger Aine Bina said...

I remember that episode. It was cute. It 's funny how there were so many episodes that featured Gabrielle, with a practically non-existent Xena. She must have had quite a fan-base. It was also funny how incredibly inconsistant their chronology was. I mean, Caesar and Hercules as contemporaries? That was a hard one for me to get over.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Yeahhhh, I gave up on Xena chronology a loooong time ago.

Although what I almost said and didn't was that at this rate of Homer-gender-speculation, I could probably "prove" that Gabrielle actually wrote the works attributed to Homer. :-P

12:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like this blog. It's the only blog on which people say "I'll read the book before deciding finally".

I hope, Glaukopis, that I can persuade you that the question (who made these poems?) really matters. If we accept (with Parry, Lord and many others) that the poet who composed the epics for writing -- the epics that we have -- is the real poet of the Iliad and Odyssey, then there is a poet whose creativity has shaped almost the whole world of literature.

Yes, I argue, using comparative as well as internal evidence, that that poet was (with more than 50% probability, I would say) a woman, a member of a family of oral poets. The argument does seem to have stirred some controversy ...

Andrew Dalby

8:10 AM  
Blogger Glaukôpis said...

Well, I'm glad that you've visited the blog!

Although while I do accept that Homer was extremely important in shaping western lit at the very least, I'm not sure gender in particular matters. I think the mind and ideas of Homer are more important.

However, if you can prove more conclusively than previous authors the gender of Homer, I'm sure that will bring up a world of other interesting questions and ideas. I do look forward to reading your book when I get a moment, though I suspect it won't be anytime in the very near future. We shall see.

2:46 PM  
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8:40 PM  

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