|Homer’s characters are
often very far from an unreflecting struggle for status at others’
expense. Rather than being a ‘zero-sum game’, their negotiations can be
of an impressive delicacy, designed to protect the ‘face’ of the other.
Gifts and visible deference are important measures of honour, but
characters also care about what others really feel.
This sensitive study reveals that at the beginnings of (surviving)
Greek literature Homer’s audience is expected to appreciate psychology
and self-control of a very high order.
Literary analysts, historians, anthropologists and indeed
archaeologists will have much to learn here about the general level of
sophistication of the historic and prehistoric societies which
generated such deeply civilized poetry.
Ruth Scodel is the author of Listening to Homer (2002), Credible
Impossibilities: Conventions and Strategies of Verisimilitude in Homer
and Greek Tragedy (1999), and many other books and articles, mostly on
Greek poetry. She is the co-author with Anja Bettenworth of Whither Quo
Vadis? Sienkiewicz’s Novel in Film and Television (2008).
Scodel is D.R. Shackleton Bailey Collegiate Professor of Greek and
Latin at the University of Michigan. She edited Transactions of the
American Philological Association from 1987 to 1991, and is an editor
of the series Texte und Kommentare. In 2007 she was President of the
American Philological Association.