Universiteit Leiden

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Did Sappho and Homer Ever Meet?

  • Prof. Olga Levaniouk
9 november 2017
Forum Antiquum
University Library
Witte Singel 26-27
2311 BG Leiden

Comparative Perspectives on Homeric Singers.

The question that is central to this paper is how womenʼs songs interacted with epic in Ancient Greece, to what extent they in fact were epic and their performers, therefore, part of what we call Homer. Beginning with the echoes of laments and wedding songs observable in Homer, I ask what kinds of performers and performances are likely to be involved in creating such interdiscursivity. We know very little about the performers of Greek oral poetry in its earlier stages, but it is possible to turn to comparative methodologies in search of suitable models. I look primarily at Russian and Turkic evidence in an attempt to determine what is typical for an epic tradition with relevant features similar to Homeric epic, and raise the possibility that the performative ecology behind Homer was more varied than is usually assumed and included epic or near-epic songs by women who used their mastery of laments and wedding songs to alter the epic tradition in distinct ways.

About the speaker

At the center of prof. Levaniouk’s research is Homer as part of the song culture of Ancient Greece. Her interests include myth, ritual, lyric poetry, drama, comparative and historical linguistics, oral traditional poetry and poetics in Greece and beyond, and a comparative approach to all of the above. She is particularly interested in comparative work involving Indic and Slavic poetry and Turkic epic.  On the myth side of things, she has an interest in mythological variation and local mythologies. On the poetic side, she has a particular interests in women's songs, especially laments and wedding songs.

Her current research is a comparative study of Greek weddings focusing on the performances by the bride, her mother, and her age-mates.