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The Dance of the MusesChoral Theory and Ancient Greek Poetics$
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A. P. David

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199292400

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199292400.001.0001

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Retrogression, Episode, and Anagogy: The Round Dance and Narrative Form

Retrogression, Episode, and Anagogy: The Round Dance and Narrative Form

(p.172) 6 Retrogression, Episode, and Anagogy: The Round Dance and Narrative Form
The Dance of the Muses

A. P. David

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the impact on Homeric art, thought, and narratology of an origin in the dance of the Muses, in ‘the intellectualization of a corporeally bound rhythm’. On the concept of ‘rhapsody’, it takes issue with Nagy’s inferences about composition and writing, citing images of art within the Homeric poems and the premise of a written original assumed by ‘rhapsody’ in other historical manifestations. Odysseus’ coinage, μυθολογεύειν, comprising μυθέεσθαι, ‘disclosing’, and καταλέγειν, ‘recounting’, encompasses a distinction between two words for ‘word’, μυθος and έπος; the discussion leads to a poetics of the ‘episode’ as a disclosive digression or retrogression, inserted within the links of a recounted narrative chain or catalogue (exemplified by a chart from Cedric Whitman). The peculiar retrogression built into the συρτός dance ultimately inspires the distinctively Greek rhetorical form ‘chiasmus’, whose reflexes in narrative include not only ‘ring composition’, but some of the deepest themes in Homeric epic, such as reversed tides of battle and returns of wandering warriors.

Keywords:   Homer, narratology, rhapsody, Nagy, Cedric Whitman, chiasmus

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