The Descent of Milman: A Darwinian Reading of Parry on the Homeric Formula

  • R. Drew Griffith Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada
Keywords: Milman Parry, Homer, Homeric formula, Charles Darwin, theory of evolution, Structuralism


The opposition of synchrony to diachrony represents a false dichotomy for understanding Parry’s work, for, like Darwin before him, he sought to re­construct from the present state of the evidence historical developments (in his case the oral, formulaic style). Since no pre-Homeric Greek was known to him, he used the noun-epithet formulae he found in Homer’s finished text and later that of South Slavic oral song. Many aspects of his work echo what Darwin’s Origin of Species has to say about evolution.

Author Biography

R. Drew Griffith, Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada

© R. Drew Griffith