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Defining Greek Narrative$
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Douglas Cairns and Ruth Scodel

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748680108

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748680108.001.0001

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Narrative Focus and Elusive Thought in Homer

Narrative Focus and Elusive Thought in Homer

(p.55) 4 Narrative Focus and Elusive Thought in Homer
Defining Greek Narrative

Ruth Scodel

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter considers three narrative features that, along with the high proportion of direct speech, contribute to the particular effect of Homeric narrative and influence later Greek narrative: change of focus, insufficiency of information, and the characters own inferences about each others’ mental states. The Homeric narrator frequently makes minor characters temporary centers of interest, and regularly changes the centre of attention among major characters; whether or not such a character formally focalizes, the focal center changes. Although the Homeric narrator is omniscient, the audience often must employ Theory of Mind, sometimes being informed in general what a character feels, but not specifics: for or example, when Alcinous asks Odysseus why he weeps at Demodocus’ song about Troy (Od. 8.577-85), the audience knows many possible reasons. Finally, both epics repeatedly show characters interpreting the mental states of others, both correctly and inaccurately, and since the characters try to understand each other, the audience will also try.

Keywords:   Homer, Theory of Mind, Focal Characters, Omniscient narrator, Insufficiency of Information

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