Monday, November 17, 2008


The Black Mountains. As we climbed (in our car) above 3500 feet or so, we saw the first snow of the year on our way back from Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I just returned from the CAMWS-southern section meeting. Overall, it went fairly well. The audience was attentive and supportive. (I would highly recommend this conference to any scholar just starting out who is nervous about making conference presentations.)

I got two questions, each dealing with the same topic.

1. What model of interaction do I see in operation between the mythic tradition of the "Oresteia" (i.e., the myths surrounding Agamemnon's death and the revenge of Orestes) and the Homeric epic of Odysseus? I responded to this by saying I saw a long tradition behind each, and that these traditions are multiform--though it must be said our evidence is not great.

2. Is it necessary to use the method of neoanalysis? The presider of the panel, Douglas Olson, asked this. With this question he got at something I realize now that I had a certain, subconscious suspicion about. As I read through my final version of the talk, I realized that I introduced the method at the beginning of my talk, but I did not revisit it and explain how what I was doing fit within the framework of neoanalysis. The problem for my paper with regard to this method is that neoanalysis typically assumes that there are fixed, preceding versions of myth (often in the form of an actual text) that the Homeric poem borrows from and adapts. And we can see Homeric "innovations" in myth when myths are retold with details that seem out-of-place for the original or are not preserved in other versions of the myth we have. I, however, don't think that there are such fixed examples of myth (in the form of texts of poems or otherwise). If I am honest about my project, I have been using neoanalysis in a rather loose way as a label for almost any process of reading the Homeric narratives as in dialogue with extra-Homeric traditions such as the "Oresteia." I am confident that I can approach the Odyssey this way, only, as Prof. Olson suggested, I could dispense with the armature of neoanalysis. This is more than a bit frustrating, since I spent a good month at least working on coming to grips with that method and writing up a literature survey and statement of methods using neoanalysis. I would be very frustrating if I don't use that in my final version.

Anyway, I have much to do now before my next deadline, Dec. 3, when I have to send out a paper to be read a critiqued by the Kenan colloquium in ethics in which I am participating. I covet your prayers for my progress.

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