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Rediscovering Homer: Inside the Origins of Epic 1st Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393057881
ISBN-10: 0393057887
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Late in this look at Homer's two great epic poems and the context out of which they grew, Dalby presents his audacious thesis: Homer, he would have us believe, was a woman. Some hedging accompanies the assertion, but it figures as the centerpiece of this study. While Dalby, a historian and linguist, excels in his discussion of the transformation from oral to written poetry and of the single-author theory for the Iliad and the Odyssey, his case for Homer's sex is discursive and full of speculation. The strongest chapter, "The Iliad and History," is a thrilling account of the evidence in support of an actual Trojan War, much of it built on Joachim Latacz's Troy and Homer. Most fascinating of all is Dalby's elegant elucidation of the Iliad's "Catalogue of Ships" passage, whose formulaic language contains time signatures of both Bronze Age Greece (the period when Troy was sacked) and of the time when the Iliad was first written down 500 years later. Despite Dalby's efforts, Homer remains as elusive as ever. But the gap between the plot of the Iliad and historical reality is growing ever narrower. This book, which contains a helpful bibliographical essay, serves as a useful introduction to the detective work these poems have inspired. 3 maps. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Andrew Dalby is an historian and linguist with a longstanding interest in oral literature. He has written about food, wine, and pleasure in the ancient world. He lives in France.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton; 1 edition (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393057887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393057881
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,275,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Publisher's Weekly review evaluates this book perfectly: The historical evidence for the existence of the Trojan War is fascinating, and the specific evidence and conclusions presented by Andrew Dalby are highly possible, but the book contain a major flaw. He digs through a variety of Egyptian, Hittite, and Greek sources to argue that the Trojan War of Homer--and the major characters, such as Paris--are collapsed versions of a variety of historical events that took place in the 100+ years before the composition of the original oral epic. He may be wrong, but he supplies evidence and reaches for conclusions that are at least moderately supported.

The problem comes with his "bold assertion" (as the publishers call it on the jacket) that Homer was a woman. Well, so what? It has been stated before, and few would be particularly upset if it were proven to be true, so there is nothing "bold" in it. The real weakness comes from Dalby's weak evidence and his loosely constructed logic. Even more glaring is that this assertion doesn't seem essential to the book itself. This book is really a collection of thoughts and ideas related to various aspects of Homer's texts, and the Homer as Female thesis is a weak attempt to provide a controlling idea. However, Dalby only presents this thesis 2/3 of the way through the book and then quickly moves on. It's a way to stand out, and perhaps a way to sell a few more books, but it isn't very important.

This is a good book and an interesting book when it allows itself to be what it is: an educated collection of thoughts related to history, oral literature, and Homer. It's when it pretends to be something else that it fails.

Read the parts that interest you and ignore the rest.
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Format: Hardcover
To keep from reading the Iliad and Odyssey the whole story is told in the first short introduction. Then a few maps and graphs before getting sown to Andrew Dalby's interpretation of information on "Rediscovering Homer."

Dalby puts together facts and information so that you feel that you are reading the stories over again with new eyes. He is a very deft writer pulling parts of the Iliad and odyssey out of order to show examples of what he is showing you. I will not go into detail here as that is why you will want this book.

You will want to read the book again as it is packed with interesting thoughts and by the time you get to the end you will wonder what you forgot.

We may never really know Homer but we feel more comfortable in his world.
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Format: Hardcover
I initially had trouble with this book: I don't know if was the author's style of writing or my lack of familiarity with the subject matter. Had the subtitle dealt with "oral poetry" rather than "inside the origins of the epic" perhaps I might have attacked the book differently and it might have been clearer the first time through. I became familiar with the subject by reading the book quickly the first time, and then I re-read the denouement, as it were, chapters 8 and 9. This is fascinating. This is very much like a detective novel so I won't give away the ending.

I have always wondered how a poet, in this case, a Homer, could recite a poem as long as the Iliad or the Odyssey. Andrew Dalby has answered that question. That alone would be worth the price of the book. But he also provides a history of how Homer rose to fame in such a short period of time, who Homer might have been, and whether Homer wrote the epics or just sang them. Along the way, Dalby provides us enough trivia about poet-singers, rhapsodic singers, and Homeridic poets to last several cocktail parties on the Quad. His research took him to Serbia / Bosnia, and it is almost too good to be true that songs of Christian-Muslim conflicts four hundred years ago led Dalby and his predecessors to their fascinating theories.

The subject matter deserves a larger opus. The book is relatively short with only 204 pages of context preceded by 27 pages of introduction. It seems like the type of book that will go to soft cover relatively soon to be sold in airport bookstores. It is possible the author had a longer book in him but the publisher knew that the small audience would grow inversely proportional with the size of the book. The bibliography is very good, and the index appears to be excellent.
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Format: Hardcover
To keep from reading the Iliad and Odyssey the whole story is told in the first short introduction. Then a few maps and graphs before getting sown to Andrew Dalby's interpretation of information on "Rediscovering Homer."

Dalby puts together facts and information so that you feel that you are reading the stories over again with new eyes. He is a very deft writer pulling parts of the Iliad and odyssey out of order to show examples of what he is showing you. I will not go into detail here as that is why you will want this book.

You will want to read the book again as it is packed with interesting thoughts and by the time you get to the end you will wonder what you forgot.

We may never really know Homer but we feel more comfortable in his world.
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