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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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Low Words in High Places: Sex, Bodily Functions, and Body Parts in Homeric Epic and Other Higher Genres

Low Words in High Places: Sex, Bodily Functions, and Body Parts in Homeric Epic and Other Higher Genres

Chapter:
(p.40) 3 Low Words in High Places: Sex, Bodily Functions, and Body Parts in Homeric Epic and Other Higher Genres
Source:
Hesperos
Author(s):

David Bain

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199285686.003.0003

This chapter examines six topics which, although they feature in higher literature, might be thought both beneath the dignity of their genres and to entail in consequence the use of indecorous vocabulary, for they involve passages in which cow dung, breasts, farting, animal sexuality, infantile incontinence, and urination are mentioned. It shows that writers in the higher genres were capable of dealing with such apparently intractable topics while both preserving the dignity of the diction and without having to resort to vulgarisms. In the case of those passages where epic is involved, the chapter scrutinizes Wackernagel's suggestion that epic, or more particularly Homeric epic, shows more ‘Dezenz’ than other branches of high literature. In his view of Homer he had a predecessor in Athenaeus (or a source of Athenaeus).

Keywords:   Homer, epic, vulgarisms, Dezenz, high literature, Athenaeus, Wackernagel, Greek poetry

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