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|Title:||Towards Popular Culture in Homeric Poems|
|Abstract:||In this paper, I pinpoint some of the problems that we face if we try to use Homeric poems as evidence for contemporary popular culture. Sections 1 and 2 briefly discuss both the context of epic performances and the subject matter of the genre that is in many ways diametrically opposed to the improvised popular culture. It is only for some clearly defined literary effects that the poet may wish to bring into his epic poems glimpses of contemporary life outside the conventional heroic world. I note, for instance, the role of harvest festivities and dance, very important in folk culture, and the way Homeric poems use such symbols with a particular literary intention. This serves to show the problems of taking our poems as documentary evidence of the world in which Homer lived. In Section 3, I give two examples out of many that seem to me to point to a certain pattern at an age of artistic flowering when the poems were reaching their final stage. At the time of the great flourishing of arts, it was only natural that many religious symbols were reused merely for their artistic interest, or that famous eastern stories helped to shape Greek literary genres. The same trends must have held true not only for the epic, where we can follow them, but also for contemporary culture in general. Both the examples I adduce enjoyed a long life and eventually found their way even into dramatic genres. Could we assume that popular culture played any role in preserving them for such a long time? An interest in mimesis, assumed identities, cheating, acting, and the act of watching, are all part of literary narrative techniques. Moreover, mimesis played a great role even beyond literary genres in archaic Greece (for instance in cultic practice). Consequently, it is difficult to establish a direct relationship with popular culture that may have likewise played with representations of various kinds. While aware of the problems of such evidence, I point at some examples of the language that may carry a memory of seeing performances, perhaps even an attempt at competing with them (Section 4). This is of course a debatable point on which more work needs to be done. An interest in both archaeological material and comparative cultural studies is essential, I think, in exploring these matters further. In perusing Homeric poems, it becomes immediately obvious that they are made up of elements from all sorts of sources. They attest to both the great artistic flowering of the time at which the poems were completed, as well as to the genius of the poet who effortlessly managed combining such heterogeneous material into an unsurpassed whole.|
|Appears in Collections:||XVIII|
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