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11 Cards in this Set

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Milman Parry
1920s and 30s

suggested that the Iliad and Odyssey began as traditional, oral works

The crux of Parry's argument was the highly repetitive and formulaic language that underlies the entire poem
Albert Lord
student of Parry's

suggested that the formulaic and schematized language resulted directly from the nature of the text's delivery

the Homeric poet did not memorize and repeat a fixed sequence of events; instead, the poet created each performance spontaneously by weaving together a series of modular components
modular composition
a method of assembling a large story from smaller set-pieces

method of choice for the Homeric poet
these ideas relate to "Whose Line is it Anyway"
First, each needs a way to produce a skeleton of their work; that is, a formal but highly flexible framework around which he creates his story. Second, both need a way to flesh out this skeleton into individual, rhythmically congruent lines. For the modern comedian, words must fit into the rhythm of a song chosen at random; the Homeric poet had to fit his lines into the tight constraints of ancient poetic meter.
themes
"themes" are the basic unit of content the performer uses to mold the skeleton of his performance

For the Homeric poet, themes covered the events and narratives most common in epic (assemblies, festivals, etc.)

The modern comedian's collection of themes probably includes guidelines to simple forms of humor, such as irony, plays-on-words, and sexual innuendo.
importance of themes
the themes act mainly as an interface for the performer; that is, the themes provide him with a basic outline, while letting the performer fill in the specifics

crucial to the concept of modular composition
formula
Following Parry, a formula is "a group of words which is regularly employed under the same metrical conditions to express a given idea"
themes and formulas
The performer uses formulas, then, to cast the themes into lines

Perhaps the most obvious examples in Homeric text are the epithets of the gods and heroes

The modern contestant also relies on formulas to compose his work. For example, the performers certainly have formulas for rhyming sentences.
epithets
An epithet is a tag-line consistently attached to a given character, such as "Flashing-eyed Athena"
the formula's economy
Homeric language has very few formulas that have the same meter and express similar ideas

the poet often expressed similar ideas in identical patterns
economy and modularity
not mutually exclusive properties

the poet often had one and only one unique arrangement of formulas to express an essential idea

both have limited ability to express similar themes in different wording

The result is highly formulaic language for Homeric poems and "Whose Line Is It, Anyway?" songs