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Homer's Original Genius: Eighteenth-Century Notions of the Early Greek Epic (1688-1798)

Homer's Original Genius: Eighteenth-Century Notions of the Early Greek Epic (1688-1798)

by Kirsti Simonsuuri


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The querelle des anciens et des modernes - the question whether writers should imitate the classics or use literary forms which seemed more suited to their own era - had been debated in Europe since the earliest days of the Renaissance. In seventeenth-century France, the modernist faction, led by Perrault, argued that a literary work owed its essential character to the prevailing social and cultural conditions; the more advanced the culture, the better its literature was likely to be. This reflected badly on classical writers since antiquity in this sense was manifestly inferior to contemporary France. It reflected particularly badly on Homer, since the great Homeric epics were seen as products of a primitive age. This book analyses the development of the querelle following the adoption of this theory, and also touches on a number of important incidental issues. Throughout, Dr Simonsuuri relates the development of ideas about Homer to developments in the fields of aesthetics, social theory and anthropology.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521134217
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 03/11/2010
Pages: 240
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

Table of Contents

List of plates; List of abbreviations; Preface; Introduction; Part I. Ancients and Moderns: 1. Ancients and moderns: the problem of cultural progress; 2. Opposition to antiquity: Charles Perrault; 3. The interpretation of early Greek epic: Mme Dacier and the Homeric war; 4. Pope's view of Homer: 'fire' and invention; 5. Voltaire and the poetry of the primitive age; Part II. Primitivism and Realism: 6. Epic genius: the departure from the neoclassical model; 7. Vico's discovery of the true Homer; 8. Thomas Blackwell: the problem of Homer's genius; 9. Notions of poetry and society in the controversy about Ossian; 10. The primitivists and the primitive bard; 11. Poetry is 'original imitation': Robert Wood's theory of the Homeric epic; 12. The originality of Homer: some conclusions; Notes; Bibliography; Index.

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