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HesperosStudies in Ancient Greek Poetry Presented to M. L. West on his Seventieth Birthday$
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P. J. Finglass, C. Collard, and N. J. Richardson

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199285686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.001.0001

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Terminal Problems

Terminal Problems

Chapter:
(p.3) 1 Terminal Problems
Source:
Hesperos
Author(s):

Stephanie West

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.003.0001

Closure has received increased attention since the publication of Frank Kermode's The Sense of an Ending (1967) and Barbara Herrnstein Smith's Poetic Closure (1968); many classicists owe to Don Fowler's work (Fowler (1989), (1997) = (2000), 239-83, 284-307) a heightened awareness of the topic's importance. This has led to some reluctance to acknowledge that quite a significant proportion of the major works of classical literature lack a marked conclusion. This chapter surveys lengthy narratives of various types and makes a few general observations. The desirability of unambiguous closure was plainly not self-evident. Early hexameter poetry exemplifies the unmarked ending; its techniques for concluding episodes are also appropriate for transitions. A listening audience would have only a very approximate idea when the bard might be expected to end his performance, and an experienced performer would himself be guided by the response of his audience in deciding when to stop and how to bring his performance to a close in a manner which would stimulate a desire for a further instalment. A strongly marked conclusion to a long narrative, summing up the significance of a long series of heroic actions, did not fit the circumstances in which our epics took shape and Herodotus pioneered European historiography.

Keywords:   narratives, closure, endings, Homeric epics

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