Fighting Words and Feuding Words: Anger and the Homeric Poems


Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches

{viii|ix} Building on the foundations of scholarship within the disciplines of philology, philosophy, history, and archaeology, this series spans the continuum of Greek traditions extending from the second millennium BCE to the present, not just the Archaic and Classical periods. The aim is to enhance perspectives by applying various disciplines to problems that have in the past been treated as the exclusive concern of a single given discipline. Besides the crossing-over of the older disciplines, as in the case of historical and literary studies, the series encourages the application of such newer ones as linguistics, sociology, anthropology, and comparative literature. It also encourages encounters with current trends in methodology, especially in the realm of literary theory.

Feuding Words and Fighting Words: Anger and the Homeric Poems, by Thomas R. Walsh, is a monumental contribution to Homeric studies. This book, in combination with the earlier book of Leonard Muellner, The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Early Greek Epic (Cornell University Press, 1996), provides Classicists with a definitive account of the semantics—and the poetics—of three central words for “anger” in the Homeric tradition. Muellner’s work concerned mênis, while Walsh’s now concentrates on kótos and khólos. Perhaps the most important aspect of Walsh’s acute readings is his remarkable discovery of a working definition of these two Homeric words, as formulated within the epic by the epic itself. At Iliad 1.74-83, the seer Calchas is quoted in the Homeric narrative, and his mantic words, as quoted by epic, reveal the basic convergences and divergences in the meanings of all three words for “anger,” mênis and kótos and khólos. This Homeric “folk definition” of those three words, each of which inherits its own poetics despite the fact that they are partial synonyms, amounts to a tour de force in the art of epic poetry. That art, as Walsh shows, is linked to {ix|x} the art of the seer: the mantic vision of Calchas translates into the poetic vision of Homer. The vision of the seer, further, can translate into the vision of Homer’s interpreters. Walsh’s book has illuminated this vision.

Gregory Nagy {x|xi}