I started reading Deborah Beck’s book with a little trepidation. Several people recommended “Homeric Conversation” to me after I presented a paper on proper personal conversation in epic at Hour 25’s first symposium. After a few tentative peeks to see if Beck would destroy my pet theory, I began reading with enthusiasm.
Beck’s work on Homeric conversations evolved from the popular field of research into “speeches”. (My work is descended from the popular field of research into “prayer”.) This book is incredibly well researched and incredibly well written. I found it full of close readings, statistics, sharp insights and asides worth tweeting. For example, did you know that “both neoanalysts and oral theorists tend to be unitarian in their attitude towards Homeric epics?” Who knew?
Her book is full of insights; like the fact that Homeric speakers are rarely interrupted, the Homeric formula that initiates a reply and the fact that in all two hundred incidents of that formula a version of the verb ameib-. She does a great analysis of the Telemachy and suggests the lame “duex de machina” finale of the Odyssey was a late addition. She writes some really good stuff about Penelope’s speeches and discusses the field of conversation analysis, in a way I found understandable. (Did you know we intentional categorize people when we talk to them? Sort of like calling a stray dog; “Good dog.”)
If you have any interest in Homeric conversations and speeches, this is the interesting and very readable book for you. (As to my own research, Beck helped great in better defining my own research and giving me the phraseology to better express my thoughts come publishing time.)