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Regular version of the site

Book chapter

Фрагмент рукописи

С. 77-84.
Фрейденберг О. М., Костенко Н. Ю., Брагинская Н. В.

O. M. Freidenberg’s “The origin of literary description”--  along with fragment on Homeric representation of death at the battlefield  is offered for publication for the first time; the work was started before WWII but remained unfinished.  The publication and commentaries to it are prefaced by Introduction. Out of “The origin of a literary description” grew two cycles of revolutionary studies, one on the specifics of Homer’s similes (partial publication, 1946), and the other on the origin of the ancient Greek lyric (post mortem, 1973, also partial), both anticipated the study of corresponding problems in Europe for decades. However, many ideas of this unfinished work have not been voiced.  Freidenberg addresses the birth of primal speech practices, i.e., narration, description, communication of a conversation contents, characterization of events, circumstances, people, etc. She reconstructs these practices on the specific features of early literature (the genesis of such practices in some measure repeats speech development in a child) and shows that the primitivism of oral narration, description, and characterizations is transformed into stylistic peculiarities. In other words, the folk genres  and early literature retain the phases of the development of the techniques of narration, description and characterization as “devices,” tropes, stylistic peculiarities, and even grammatical categories. Freidenberg treats visual representation as well as enumeration, catalogues, lists, detailed descriptions but without generalization, absence of hierarchy and selection, cumulative narration, praesens historicum, retardation, simile and ekphrasis in this perspective. She attributes the minutest descriptions of impaling and dismemberment in battle to the experience of a priest, cattle breeder, or hunter. The practice of sacrifice provides the material to be used as an observation of reality. The “defects” of ancient descriptions are the first steps towards realism and naturalism in epic in which the ideas about the world, gods, heroes and a plot are still mythological. As for the human world, it emerges in the demonstration which compares parts of similes, or in the ekphrases of things. The epic reinforces the myth with reality where as the archaic lyric compares people to gods reinforcing thus reality with myth. The epic worldview, fundamentally anti-realistic, clothes its cosmic images in everyday garb whereas the Greek lyric engendered by realism, relies on religion and myth. In this study by Freidenberg, ekphrasis has a special meaning, namely, description of things, of what is hand-made. At the same time, craft ware themselves describe certain images wordlessly, via things, because the semantics of ancient things is mythic. Ekphrasis was preceded by “description” in forging, wood, and embroidery. Things do not function to characterize heroes, e.g., Achilles’s shield does not characterize a hero, it represents the mythic  world in the phases both of birth and destruction.

Akin to the display of a concrete destruction or a concrete hero built on the material of sacrifice, akin to the simile which in itself contains the vision of everyday reality, Homer’s ekphrasis unites in itself mythism and reality through which the explanation of traditional material occurs. In the process, the creator of oxymoronic “oral literature” or “written mythological folklore” turns into an author. For Freidenberg, the appearance of author in lyrics who writes about oneself is the greatest event in the history of consciousness. The writing is not yet about one’s inner world but is about oneself none the less. Hence the lyric poetry is replete with sphragides of nearly all the poets for an author is a concrete person even though still an object of the cult with a semi-mythic biography but it is not the Muse any longer who dictates to the epicsinger.

In book

Edited by: Т. Автухович, Р. Мних, Т. Бовсуновская Седльце: Instytut kultury regionalnej i badań literackich im. Franciszka Karpińskiego, 2018.