World literature, first intuited in Goethe’s foundational idea of weltliteratur as literature that seeks to transcend national boundaries, is viewed here in its essential mobility and migratory capacity, which relies on the centrality of the reading act. This volume focuses on foundational texts as they are read across cultures, languages and historical contexts. Its goal is to reflect on canonical texts – from Homer’s Odyssey to Murakami’s Genji, from Cervantes to Mayan hieroglyphs, from Dante to Coetzee, from Goethe to Lezama Lima, from the Thousand and One Nights to Jorge Luis Borges – in a global perspective: how they are translated, appropriated, transformed, how they travel across different cultures and languages, their foundational status evolving accordingly in a post-European world.
Foundational Texts of World Literature includes contributions by Gerardo Aldana, Sandra Bermann, Piero Boitani, Michael Emmerich, Azadeh Yamini Hamedani, Stefan Helgesson, Paulo Lemos Horta, Juan Pablo Lupi, Peter Madsen, Ulrich Marzolph, Suzanne Saïd, Evanghelia Stead, Mads Rosendahl Thomsen, and Richard Van Leeuwen.
Homer, or How to Create a World Writer (Suzanne Saïd) 29
Homer, or How to Create a World Writer Suzanne Saïd ome of the most distinguished philologists of the past two centuries1 have attempted to discover the “true” Homer, that is the Homer who seemed plausible to them, given their reading of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and their understanding of the relation between the author and his work. Contemporary scholars are more skeptical. In her influential book, The Lives of the Greek Poets, Mary Lefkowitz openly hoped “to show that virtually all the material in all the lives is fiction”.2 The titles of recent papers or books by Walter Burkert (“The Making of Homer in the sixth century B.C: rhapsodes versus Stesichorus”, 1987 ), Martin L. West (“The Invention of Homer”, 1999) and Barbara Graziosi (Inventing Homer. The Early Reception of Epic, 2002) are also revealing. Their authors no longer try to separate the wheat from the chaff and the facts from the fiction, but read ancient biographies as testimonies to the reception of the work, that is, its diffusion and significance. In this paper, I propose to present, first, how the Ancients constructed the author Homer from his poems, focusing on his name, on his genealogies, and last but not least, on the lists of his fatherlands, which mirror the gradual extension of the Homeric poems’ reception: starting from Ionia, Homer’s reputation quickly became panhellenic, and grew afterwards according to the spread of Hellenism in the Eastern Mediterranean, first with Alexander’s conquests and secondly with the expansion of...
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