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While a new surge of critical interest in the ancient Greek [#permalink]
05 Apr 2009, 19:34
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While a new surge of critical interest in the ancient Greek poems conventionally ascribed to Homer has taken place in the last twenty years or so, it was nonspecialists rather than professional scholars who studied the poetic aspects of the Iliad and the Odyssey between, roughly, 1935 and 1970. During these years, while such nonacademic intellectuals as Simone Weil and Erich Auerbach were trying to define the qualities that made these epic accounts of the Trojan War and its aftermath great poetry, the questions that occupied the specialists were directed elsewhere: “Did the Trojan War really happen?” “Does the bard preserve Indo-European folk memories?” “How did the poems get written down?” Something was driving scholars away from the actual works to peripheral issues. Scholars produced books about archaeology, about gift-exchange in ancient societies, about the development of oral poetry, about virtually anything except the Iliad and the Odyssey themselves as unique reflections or distillations of life itself—as, in short, great poetry. The observations of the English poet Alexander Pope seemed as applicable in 1970 as they had been when he wrote them in 1715: according to Pope, the remarks of critics “are rather Philosophical, Historical, Geographic…or rather anything than Critical and Poetical.”
Ironically, the modern manifestation of this “nonpoetical” emphasis can be traced to the profoundly influential work of Milman Parry, who attempted to demonstrate in detail how the Homeric poems, believed to have been recorded nearly three thousand years ago, were the products of a long and highly developed tradition of oral poetry about the Trojan War. Parry proposed that this tradition built up its diction and its content by a process of constant accumulation and refinement over many generations of storytellers. But after Parry’s death in 1935, his legacy was taken up by scholars who, unlike Parry, forsook intensive analysis of the poetry itself and focused instead on only one element of Parry’s work: the creative limitations and possibilities of oral composition, concerning on fixed elements and inflexibilities, focusing on the things that oral poetry allegedly can and cannot do. The dryness if this kind of study drove many of the more inventive scholars away from the poems into the rapidly developing field of Homer’s archaeological and historical background.
Appropriately, Milman Parry’s son Adam was among those scholars responsible for a renewed interest in Homer’s poetry as literary art. Building on his father’s work, the younger Parry argued that the Homeric poems exist both within and against a tradition. The Iliad and the Odyssey were, Adam Parry thought, the beneficiaries of an inherited store of diction, scenes, and at the same time highly individual works that surpasses these conventions. Adam Parry helped prepare the ground for the recent Homeric revival by affirming his father’s belief in a strong inherited tradition, but also by emphasizing Homer’s unique contributions within that tradition.
8. Which one of the following best states the main idea of the passage? (A) The Homeric poems are most fruitfully studied as records of the time and place in which they were written. (B) The Homeric poems are the products of a highly developed and complicated tradition of oral poetry. (C) The Homeric poems are currently enjoying a resurgence of critical interest after an age of scholarship largely devoted to the poems’ nonpoetic elements. (D) The Homeric poems are currently enjoying a resurgence of scholarly interest after am age during which most studies were authored by nonacademic writers. (E) Before Milman Parry published his pioneering work in the early twentieth century, it was difficult to assign a date or an author to the Homeric poems.
9. According to the passage, the work of Simone Weil and Erich Auerbach on Homer was primarily concerned with which one of the following? (A) considerations of why criticism of Homer had moved to peripheral issues (B) analyses of the poetry itself in terms of its literary qualities (C) studies in the history and nature of oral poetry (D) analyses of the already ancient epic tradition inherited by Homer (E) critiques of the highly technical analyses of academic critics
10. The passage suggests which one of the following about scholarship on Homer that has appeared since 1970? (A) It has dealt extensively with the Homeric poems as literary art. (B) It is more incisive than the work of the Parrys. (C) It has rejected as irrelevant the scholarship produced by specialists between 1935 and 1970. (D) It has ignored the work of Simone Weil and Erich Auerbach. (E) It has attempted to confirm that the Iliad and the Odyssey were written by Homer.
11. The author of the passage most probably quotes Alexander Pope (lines 24-26) in order to (A) indicate that the Homeric poems have generally received poor treatment at the hands of English critics (B) prove that poets as well as critics have emphasized elements peripheral to the poems (C) illustrate that the nonpoetical emphasis also existed in an earlier century (D) emphasize the problems inherent in rendering classical Greek poetry into modern English (E) argue that poets and literary critics have seldom agreed the interpretation of poetry
12. According to the passage, which one of the following is true of Milman Parry’s immediate successors in the field of Homeric studies? (A) They reconciled Homer’s poetry with archaeological and historical concerns. (B) They acknowledged the tradition of oral poetry, but focused on the uniqueness of Homer’s poetry within the tradition. (C) They occupied themselves with the question of what qualities made for great poetry. (D) They emphasized the boundaries of oral poetry. (E) They called for a revival of Homer’s popularity.
13. Which one of the following best describes the organization of the passage? (A) A situation is identified and its origins are examines. (B) A series of hypotheses is reviewed and one is advocated. (C) The works of two influential scholars are summarized. (D) Several issues contributing to a currently debate are summarized. (E) Three possible solutions to a long-standing problem are posed
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