Orality

By William Scott Duffy | April 3, 2017

Milman Parry’s theory that the Homeric poems are the result of oral-formulaic composition, is central to the study of ancient epic. It can also be difficult to explain to students or non-Classicist friends, since the Iliad and Odyssey are now consumed primarily as books, not oral poems. Most oral traditions are at the tail end of their existence and most members of contemporary, literate societies have little experience with them. There is little to be done about the first of these issues, but we can address the second. While we may not have access to a significant body of oral composition, there are art forms created in the moment of performance that can be quite helpful in explaining how the Homeric epics were created and consumed by audiences. The most notable of these is professional wrestling.

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