Milman Parry’s brief life and big ideology
By Robert Kanigel
By the time he died in a hotel in Los Angeles in 1935, the 33-year-old was severely injured by his own gun – more than twice his age, academically accomplished, by the classical Milman Parry. Son of a druggist, Parry, Oakland, who achieved a position at Harvard at the age of 27. Written, as long thought, but verbal – were composed in the act of performance. Nearly a century after his death, he is still referred to as the “Darwin of Homerian Studies”. His work has widespread influence, emphasizing orality that has become increasingly central in modern literary culture – from professional storytellers and TED talks to podcasts and audiobooks. In “Hearing Homer Song”, biographer Robert Canigel presents the first full-scale account of Parry’s short life, mysterious demise, and long-lived impact.
Homer was already considered a “classic” in the fifth century BCE, but the poems and whoever created his identity have long been a mystery. Who was homer How did he make his poems? “Iliad” and “Odyssey” were also produced by the same person? During more than two centuries of debate, Parry showed that these were the wrong questions. There was no ancient poet named “Homer”, he argued. Nor were the poems “written” by him written by any one person. Rather, they were products of a centuries-old tradition of poets.
Parry’s research, which was largely conducted in the libraries of Berkeley, Paris, and Cambridge, Mass., Took on a daring new dimension when he traveled 15 months, back then to what Yugoslavia was, and to the Guslers or “Stories of Singer “. As he calls them – will still practice the living oral tradition. His weddings and songs of war performed in cafes (and, later, in a traveling studio at Parry’s Davising) provided living proof that his theory about the creation of Homeric epics was, in fact, possible in practice. In the process, he created a new audio device for recording long songs on aluminum discs, now housed at Harvard University. This fieldwork marked, in the estimation of many, the beginning of the discipline of “sound study”, showing that poetry can be lyrical and epic, a performance.
Despite his enormous influence – and a huge collection – as a subject for biography, Parry conceived and, frankly, disappointed me. His archived papers run for about 500 pages, and he made recordings and tapes in the thousands. Yet his writings rarely collided with technical questions; In his interview with the singers, he let his assistant talk. In Kanigel’s hands, we see him laughing at a Harvard student production of a Greek tragedy, complaining about bed lice and driving his sloppy Ford through the back roads of the Balkans. But his inner life, the source of his schism – even of the Greek epics who loved him dearly – remained a mystery to the reader and biographer. The person we see most clearly in “Listening to Homer’s Songs” is Parry’s wife, Marion, who financed her doctorate and took care of her children, even suspecting matters. , Moved his family back and forth across the Atlantic and delayed his return. school. Through this all Parry stubbornly remained opaque to him.