Homeric Variations on a Lament by Briseis
This work centers on the figure of Briseis in the Iliad—who may seem at first sight to be marginal to the plot of that epic but who turns out to be essential to it—and even to the character-definition of the central hero of the Iliad, Achilles himself. Moreover, Briseis turns out to be a central character in local epic traditions that are still reflected, albeit indirectly, in Homeric poetry. Briseis thus becomes a most vivid illustration of the multiformity that typifies epic traditions in the preclassical Greek-speaking world.
A key to Dué’s discovery procedure is her form-analysis of direct “quotations” or indirect retellings of women’s laments and love songs in Homeric poetry. She proves that the morphology of these traditional genres is integrated into the overall morphology of the epic genre that displays them through such characters as Briseis, especially in the Iliadic passage where this character is “quoted” as lamenting the death of Patroklos. Dué’s treatment of this passage is a tour de force in literary interpretation, where all her formal analysis comes together decisively in illuminating the beauty and precision inherent in the system that we call Homeric poetry.
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Richard P. Martin, The senses of an ending: myth, ritual, and poetic exodia in performance