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A New Type of Ring Composition? Toward a Technique of Inherited Poetics

Alexander Forte

A New Type of Ring Composition? Towards a Technique of Inherited Poetics

Alexander SW Forte

Harvard University

This paper discuss a sophisticated and previously neglected type of ring composition found in the earliest poetry of three separate Indo-European poetic traditions. In what one might call “traditional” ring composition, the central element that lies between the various rings is the gap that the concentric circles of responsion emphasize. A nuanced presentation of this concept is found in Stephanie Jamison’s concept of the omphalos structure in Vedic hymns:

A 1 — B 1 — X — B 2 — A 2

where X represents a riddling element or the conceptual key to the hymn. However, in Cato the Elder’s Lustration of the Fields (discussed in detail by Watkins 1995, 197-206), RV X.129 (whose ring compositional elements have been outlined by Brereton 1999), and Homer’s Iliad 23.306-348 (as discussed by Lohmann 1970: 15-18), among others, we find instances of ring composition where the central element is consistent with the modern conceptual metaphor of “turning point.” Therefore the form and function of the central element overlap. 

This approach builds off of previous work in which the phenomenon was traced in Greek and Indic poetry (Forte, Smith 2014), but the addition of the Italic data allows further consideration, including whether this compositional feature is inherited from an Indo-European tradition of oral poetry.

Session/Panel Title:

Greek and Latin Linguistics

Session/Paper Number

54.1

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