chapter  2
29 Pages

WORD OF MOUTH: ORALITY AND DIDACTIC POETRY FROM HESIOD TO EMPEDOCLES

Before scientific prose there was mythological poetry. An oral professor of science, if we can justly imagine such a creature, would have taught through myth (Frankel 1975: 520ff.). The type of poem that he might have written would have been what we call a didactic epic. Such a poem would make its explanations above all through the illustrative use of mythological narrative. It would also demonstrate the more common features of oral poetry. The medium would be verse, the dactylic hexameter used in narrative epic. There would or there should be a formulaic use of language, description, scenes, and structure. And typically such a text would set out its contents in an episodic manner - the usual oral mode. Perhaps the most notable characteristic of such a narrative would be the apparent independence, even detachability, of the various narrative sections within the poem as a whole (this could be described as a parataetie narrative - see Toohey 1992: 13-16). Oral or semi-oral poets do not usually spell out the links between sections.