Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Classical Studies

First Advisor

Sheila Murnaghan


Like its principal hero, the Iliad has a reputation for straightforwardness that it does not deserve and (unlike Achilles) does not pretend to. Contrary to Auerbach’s thesis that Homeric narrative “leave[s] nothing in obscurity” (1953: 4), this dissertation emphasizes how the Iliad’s narrative modulates the story that it represents—in ways that both helpfully guide and deceptively mislead the audience. In this dissertation, I offer a narratologically-informed study of how the narrator’s representation of the Iliad’s story in time and space meaningfully shapes the audience’s experience of it. Disentangling the time and space of the story from their representation in narrative, I argue that the narrator calls attention to the imperfect correspondence between the narrative and the story, and that the tension between the two—and the failure to recognize the distinction between them—lies at the heart of prominent Homeric problems, from antiquity to today. As I argue, the audience’s experience, as conditioned by the narrative, belies the narrator’s remarkably synoptic sense of both the story and the narrative that represents it. Though readers have long ascribed the difficulty of reading the Iliad to shortcomings of the narrator, I demonstrate that the narrator can see the forest for the trees, even when the audience is stuck in the weeds. Telling a story that is neither wholly new nor wholly inherited, the narrator captivates the audience and generates suspense by shaping, distributing, and revealing the story in ways that put the audience’s familiarity with the story in tension with its ignorance of how it will unfold in the narrative. In four chapters, I examine the timeline of the plot (Chapter One), the representation of time prior to the plot (Chapter Two), the distribution of story time over the course of the narrative (Chapter Three), and the link between spatial boundaries and narrative endpoints (Chapter Four). My narratological approach to the Iliad moves beyond previous applications of narratology to Homeric narrative, resolves perceived problems about the poem’s spatial and temporal representation, and offers an alternative to other current approaches to Homeric poetry, especially neoanalysis and oral-formulaic theory.

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