Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature

Writing and the Origins of Greek Literature

by Barry B. Powell


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The purpose of this book is to dispel misunderstanding about the genesis of the Homeric poems and other knotty problems in oral studies, such as the meaning of "orality," "literacy," "tradition," "memorization," and "text." The study is about the nature and history of writing--how it was used in the Ancient Near East, and especially in Greece, and its relationship to Homer. It suggests that a Semite invented the Greek alphabet, heir to an ancient bilingual Eastern tradition of recording poetry by dictation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780521036313
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication date: 04/16/2007
Pages: 228
Product dimensions: 6.14(w) x 9.21(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Barry B. Powell is Halls-Bascom Professor of Classics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His books include Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet (1991 HB 0521371570; 1996 PB 052158907X).

Table of Contents

List of figures; Preface; Acknowledgements; 1. Introduction: building models like a wigwam; 2. Text; 3. Orality and genre; 4. Myth; 5. Literacy; 6. Tradition; 7. Memorization; 8. M. L. West and the Eastern origins of Greek tradition; 9. Cultural transmission by literate means in the Near East; 10. Writing: general; 11. Writing: semasiography and logosyllabography; 12. Writing: the Chinese enigma; 13. Oral and written in the land between the rivers; 14. Oral and written in the Valley of the Nile; 15. The West Semitic revolution; 16. The invention of the Greek alphabet and the end of multiliteralism; 17. Where does Homer fit in the alphabetic revolution?; 18. The aoidos in context; 19. Aoidic innovation in myth: stories from pots; 20. Summary and conclusions: early Greek literature in context; Bibliography; Index.

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