Reading update.

Folks, we won’t meet again until next Thursday the 16th (enjoy your short week, and L’shana tova), but I wanted to mention a couple of things. First, I have revised the links on the 9/16 page, so in addition to the pdfs of Havelock and Nagy, there are some links to excerpts from Plato and Homer. We do not really have the time, nor do I have the expertise, to engage in a close reading of The Iliad, so I’d just like you to read the opening lines in English translation (out loud) and compare them to the sound of the Greek original. If you can read the Greek alphabet, you can follow along with the recording (if not, here‘s a good page about the letters and their pronunciations). As for Plato, the important passage I want to discuss is in the short excerpt from Phaedrus on the pdf: the conversation about writing versus speech. If you have the time and inclination you can also read Book X of The Republic (where Socrates explains why poets have no place in the ideal republic). However, I think we’ll spend most of our time discussing the ideas put forward by Nagy and by Havelock about the importance of oral performance in Ancient Greece. So read those texts first.

The other thing I wanted to mention is this upcoming performance by Amiri Baraka (along with his wife Amina and a band). I doubt that many of you have the time to go to New Jersey, but if you are so inclined…

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  1.   nahmed

    I found Nagy’s piece and Zumthor’s idea of “mouvance” extremely interesting as well as having links to what we discussed during our last class. I’m not sure who to give the credit to for beginning this idea/discussion, but I remember we discussed the idea that no piece of art (poetry, prose, etc.) is “original”. Nothing but the first thought, the idea of a piece of literature is the “original”. Therefore every work shows signs of mouvance, which is the idea that the the work is a text in progress, it is ever changing. Nagy starts with looking at Homer’s work, quoting Alfred Lord when stating that Homer’s original works are comprised of simpler words. These words were then replaced by expressions that are more sophisticated. Nagy then questions which of these works (Homer’s originals with simple words vs. Homer’s version with more sophisticated words) is the “original” when concerning the written text. Perhaps it is not a question of originality; perhaps both versions are the “original” if they stem from variations in the performance itself. If there were two different performances of ONE work, it would make sense that the written piece would then be different as well. Another reason for different versions of a text can also be attributed to the writing of numerous copies of one text. When writing copies, one may fix the errors or the syntax in the piece of literature based on how they normally would speak or write. In doing so, they can change the entire meaning of one line of a poem or story. We can see this in Rudel’s song that was given as an example. Because of this, Alfred Jeanroy states that “authentic” texts cannot be established or discovered. This then goes back to what we discussed last class, that there is no real “authentic” or “original” text or oral performance. Nagy then states that these changes/variations in versions can also be attributed to the author. At first, I thought this was untrue, why would an artist want to have different versions of the same piece of work? As I continued reading, it made more sense and made me think about myself. Nagy discusses the fact that there is much variation in Jaufre Rudel’s works. He was constantly reworking his poetry, and was considered a troubadour. Nowadays, artists edit (and have editors) and constantly change their work BEFORE publishing. In ancient times, this was not possible, which would make it understandable as to why we see variations in the same piece of work. This then made me think about my own story telling. Every time we tell a story about something that happened to us, unknowingly that story changes. We either add details every time, or leave out details when retelling. If we were to write down the story at one point, I guarantee it will be different from the first time we told that same story.


  • Listening “Literature” implies a written text. But what about the audiotext? Why do we refer to the “audience” (from the Latin audiens, listening) of a literary work? This course is about listening to literature and reading performance. ____________________________________
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