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Neglected Warnings in the Iliad: A Study in Characterization

Heverly, W. Gerald (2013) Neglected Warnings in the Iliad: A Study in Characterization. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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W. Gerald Heverly, PhD
University of Pittsburgh, 2013

A neglected warning is a narrative sequence consisting of three moves: a credible warning is issued, the recipient disregards it, and he suffers some calamity as a result. Neglected warnings are common in folklore and literature. They have been studied closely in Herodotus, Thucydides, and Sophocles, but not in Homer. The little that has been said about neglected warnings in his poetry focuses on the recurring traits of warners and recipients and lacks consensus. Attempting to remedy the situation, this dissertation systematically investigates how the Iliad’s twelve neglected warnings help characterize members of both groups.

Warners and recipients turn out to be distinct character types. All the examples feature a warner who is male, wise, old, actively benevolent, and sympathetic. Furthermore, warners are very often paternal or prophetic. Sometimes one or more attributes are insinuated by the poet rather than being literally true. Recipients, by contrast, are always young men who are selfishly ambitious, bold, and reckless. Thus, a strong contrast in characterization obtains across examples. In addition, Homer consistently pairs one warner with one recipient, and recipients frequently recover in some way from the disasters that they provoke.

These conclusions augment or correct existing observations about the neglected warning pattern in Homer. The results also support a previously unsubstantiated claim that it derives from folklore. Specifically, the Iliad’s warners correspond to a stock character in folktales known as the Wise Old Man. For their part, neglectful recipients closely resemble the type of the disobedient hero, which occurs especially in cautionary tales. Some widely attested folktale plots are built around interaction between a Wise Old Man figure and a disobedient hero who experiences misfortune by disregarding the elder’s advice. The overall scenario may well have been incorporated into the Greek poetic tradition, serving as a basis for the standard features of neglected warnings in the Iliad. Directions for further research are suggested.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Heverly, W.
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairFloyd, Edwin D.edfloyd@pitt.eduEDFLOYD
Committee MemberLooney, Dennis O.looney@pitt.eduLOONEY
Committee MemberMiller, Andrew AMM2
Committee MemberSmethurst, Mae J.msmet@pitt.eduMSMET
Date: 30 June 2013
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 March 2013
Approval Date: 30 June 2013
Submission Date: 17 April 2013
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 132
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Classics
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Homer, Iliad, folklore, warnings in literature, advice in literature, characterization
Date Deposited: 30 Jun 2013 20:58
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:11


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