Gregory Nagy of Harvard University will join the CHS Community for an Open House discussion about Sappho’s Song 44 and about his postings on Classical Inquiries. The event takes place on Tuesday, September 6 at 11:30 a.m. EDT.
Visit the Hour 25 website for the live stream event or watch and join the live chat on YouTube.
On Song 44
The process of remembering in ancient Greek song culture requires a special medium, song. When I say song here, I include poetry, even though the word poetry in modern usage is understood to be different from song. In the ancient Greek song culture, however, both poetry and song are understood to be a medium of singing. And such singing is an oral tradition. The epic poetry of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey derives from such an oral tradition of singing, which is a process of composition-in-performance. That is, composition is an aspect of performance and vice versa. In this kind of oral tradition, there is no script, since the technology of writing is not required for composition-in-performance. In Homeric poetry, the basic medium of remembering is heroic song or kleos. (Gregory Nagy, The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours, 2§12)
Song 44 of Sappho, which has a form conventionally described as lyric, is not only related to the form of epic as exemplified by the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey: more than that, this form of lyric, like the form of epic, originates from an oral tradition. (Gregory Nagy, “Song 44 of Sappho revisited: what is ‘oral’ about the text of this song?,” Classical Inquiries, 2016-09-01)
Gregory Nagy is the Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature at Harvard University, and is the Director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, Washington, DC. In his publications, he has pioneered an approach to Greek literature that integrates diachronic and synchronic perspectives. His books include The Best of the Achaeans: Concepts of the Hero in Archaic Greek Poetry (Johns Hopkins University Press), which won the Goodwin Award of Merit, American Philological Association, in 1982; also Pindar’s Homer: The Lyric Possession of an Epic Past (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Homeric Questions (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996), Homeric Responses (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003), Homer’s Text and Language (University of Illinois Press 2004), Homer the Classic (Harvard University Press, online 2008, print 2009), and Homer the Preclassic (University of California Press 2010). His latest work, Masterpieces of Metonymy, is now also available online. He co-edited with Stephen A. Mitchell the 40th anniversary second edition of Albert Lord’s The Singer of Tales (Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature vol. 24; Harvard University Press, 2000), co-authoring with Mitchell the new Introduction, pp. vii–xxix. Professor Nagy has taught versions of this course to Harvard College undergraduates and Harvard Extension School students for over thirty-five years. Throughout his career Nagy has been a consistently strong advocate for the use of information technology in both teaching and research. He is currently writing articles for Classical Inquiries, including commentaries on the Iliad.