BDSL-Klassifikation: 03.00.00 Literaturwissenschaft > 03.07.00 Ästhetik
Did Philologists write the Iliad? : Friedrich August Wolf's criteria of style and the demonstrative power of citation
- Friedrich August Wolf posits in his "Prolegomena ad Homerum" that, from the time of the first transcription of Homer's epics around 700 BC to the time of the Alexandrian editions, the Iliad and Odyssey underwent repeated revisions by a multitude of poets and critics. According to Wolf, the "unified" works that we know are the products of emendations by Alexandrian critics who attempted to homogenize the style of the epics and to return them to their "original" form. This paper argues that Wolf's narration of the history of these texts relies on and produces aesthetic claims, not historical ones. Wolf determines the dates and origins of passages based on intuitive judgments of style for which he cannot provide linguistic or historical evidence. And his conclusions that the "Iliad" and "Odyssey" were not written by Homer, but rather by a history of emendations and revisions, enthrones his work — the work of philologists — in place of the literary genius Homer. Thus philology becomes for Wolf an aesthetic discipline that produces canonical and beautiful works of literature. This aesthetic task is essential for philology to fulfill its educational and political responsibilities.