Of Hector, horse-taming and man-slaying

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Title: Of Hector, horse-taming and man-slaying
Author: Mulhern, Eleanor Virginia
Type: Thesis
Issue Date: 2011
Abstract: That the Iliadic Hector possesses a pair of epithet-phrases—ÜEktorow éndrofÒnoio and ÜEktorow flppodãμoio—that violate Milman Parry’s law of economy has been known since Parry invented his law of economy. He addressed the problem himself in L’Epithète traditionnelle dans Homère, where his solution to the redundancy was to ascribe the appearance of flppodãμoio to analogy with the epithets of other heroes, and to state categorically “the obvious impossibility of inferring from it any theory of analysis whatever.”1 Parry, by the innovative persuasiveness of his profoundly illuminating research, changed the questions we ask about the composition and meaning of the Homeric corpus, and for some time also dictated the answers. His system of analysis held sway for some decades, and even those who took a different approach had to argue on his terms. Albert Lord2 and John Miles Foley,3 in particular, continued studies in comparative orality which tend to confirm and refine Parry’s findings among South Slavic oral poets. On the other hand, in the last thirty years or so, Parry’s stranglehold on Homeric studies has loosened. One of the more intriguing lines of thought is Irene De Jong’s work in applying narratological principles— formerly restricted to the novel or other clearly literary works—to oral poetry, and specifically to the Iliad. The Iliad troubles both the scholar of literature and the oralist, because the poem, as we have it, is neither an oral artifact nor the kind of text we usually encounter. No one would now maintain that the Iliad is not orally derived, but the text we have need not represent an oral performance perfectly—it is not a recording we can play. Still, we are reluctant to move away from the oral framework; our reluctance to treat the poem as at all literary may be founded in our inability to reconstruct even the terms of the recension ... And the Iliad, as it is, contains this redundant epithet pair for Hector. I do not accept Parry’s solution of explaining this away by analogy. This paper will, therefore, investigate differently the sources of these two epithets and their effect on the poem. It will try, in doing so, to address the concerns of the multiple camps within the field, starting from an oralist framework and then moving beyond that framework to address its inadequacies for interpretation. First, the paper will set out all Hector’s epithet-groups, case by case, and investigate how fully they meet Parry’s expectations, and thence demonstrate the peculiarity of the redundant genitive group. The following section will consider and evaluate the sources of this oddity. The paper will then, using a narratological framework, survey the possible compositional implications for the epic, and finally will treat the implications for Hector’s rôle in the Iliad.
Subject: Epithets
Subject: Homer
Subject: Iliad
Subject: Hector (Legendary character)
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Mulhern, Eleanor Virginia. "Of Hector, horse-taming and man-slaying". 2011. Available electronically from

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