Homer on Memory and the Experience of Remembering: Nestor and Eurykleia   

Elizabeth Minchin

Classics, The Australian National University

In previous studies of the Homeric epics I attempted to throw light on the way in which an oral poet such as Homer may have exploited the resources of memory available to him as he rehearsed and then performed stories from his repertoire. My current project is to observe how Homer, in the course of his tales, reflects on memory and the phenomena of remembering and forgetting. In this paper I propose to consider two case-studies which illustrate different aspects of memory: firstly, the elderly Nestor and his habit of reminiscence and, secondly, Eurykleia and her experience of remembering (prompted by the sight of Odysseus' scar). My aim has been to assess Homer's understanding of the workings of memory and to compare it with our own. My points of reference have been a number of recent studies of memory and its functions in everyday activities. These include the new book by Daniel Schacter, the cognitive psychologist, memorably titled The Seven Sins of Memory.


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