Symbolic Action in the Homeric Hymns: The Theme of Recognition

Classical Antiquity 21 (1):5-39 (2002)

Abstract

The Homeric Hymns are commonly taken to be religious poems in some general sense but they are often said to contrast with cult hymns in that the latter have a definite ritual function, whereas "literary" hymns do not. This paper argues that despite the difficulty in establishing a precise occasion of performance for the Homeric Hymns, we are nevertheless in a position to identify their ritual function: by intoning a Hymn of this kind, the singer achieves the presence of a god before participants in a public festival. The key mechanism by which the hymnist does this is the evocation of a god via the elaboration of a typical unit of traditional hymnic discourse, what I call the "theme of recognition ." The pragmatic operation of narrative such as this is similar to the device known in the study of magical texts as the historiola, or short narrative that serves as a verbal model for a desired outcome in the patient's world. This kind of operation is called, in this paper, "symbolic action," a term borrowed from the rhetorician Kenneth Burke. The theme of recognition is traced in the fabric of the expansive Hymns , and the paper further argues that an important generic marker in the Hymns, the greeting of the god , discloses their pragmatic function, the hymnist's skillful deliverance of the god before his hearers

Download options

PhilArchive



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,891

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Analytics

Added to PP
2010-12-09

Downloads
6 (#1,142,643)

6 months
1 (#386,040)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

John Garcia
William Rainey Harper College

References found in this work

A Grammar of Motives.Kenneth Burke - 1946 - Berkeley: University of California Press.
A Rhetoric of Motives.Kenneth Burke - 1950 - Berkeley: University of California Press.
A Rhetoric of Motives.Kenneth Burke - 1950 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 3 (2):124-127.

View all 38 references / Add more references

Similar books and articles

The Homeric Hymns.T. L. Agar - 1924 - Classical Quarterly 18 (3-4):137-.
Some Emendations of the Homeric Hymns.R. J. Shackle - 1915 - The Classical Review 29 (06):161-165.
The Athos MS. Of the Homeric Hymns.M. Constantinides - 1894 - The Classical Review 8 (08):341-344.
Some Notes on the Homeric Hymns.Hugh G. Evelyn White - 1914 - The Classical Review 28 (07):221-223.