When was The Iliad actually written? To answer that question, you might turn to a historian or a literary scholar. But geneticists wanted a crack at it, too
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I hesitate to begin with a question that may reveal more about my own ignorance than anything else.
Having for so long been a story passed down through generations strictly in an oral tradition, I can't imagine that there weren't many, versions of the story being told, all more or less similar at the core, but ranging in specific vocabulary used; sort of like what used to happen when we played the game called telephone. One listener, might remember the story fairly well, but memory might cause a blip or two when that listener retold the story. When the second listener retold the story more blips... and so on. And two listeners in that "first audience" might tell two slightly different blipped versions to four listeners each of whom might have told four different audiences four different blipped versions.
Recognizing that the original storytellers were far more attentive than 8 year old boys nervous about whispering into the ears of 8 year old girls, I'll assume that the source materials used in this intriguing story are "relatively" stable versions of the words that found their way into the earliest published versions of the story.
I'm actually more interested in the fact that those with non-literary educational backgrounds are bringing their talents to the study of literature. In previous scoops I've appreciated the work being done in neuroscience related to tracking brain functions when reading literature.
The vocabulary lesson described in this article as it was used by geneticists attempting to determine a possible date of the publication of the Illiad might be more interesting to a significant percentage of our students than merely looking at vocabulary as a study of prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
Anyone who has tried to maintain an interest in older literature in spite of its antiquated vocabulary knows that constant interruptions of the engaging momentum of the suspension of disbelief is not always as successful as it is annoying to many students.
Great literature does not stand alone in the real world. It is influenced and reflects history, psychology, culture, cartography, philosophy, sociology, politics, marketing, intellectual perception,... all sorts of elements beyond the siloed English Department.
As those of us who focus upon the value of literature in the 21st century valiantly come to its defense, it is essential that we not fight that good fight alone. It is too easy to dismiss literature educators as being biased in times when "practical" is a trump card in budget discussions among colleagues whose understanding of the practical impacts of the difficult to measure outcomes of literary reading is less well informed.
To be able to reference more informed views of allies coming to the defense of literary reading from beyond the English department; from the sciences and the business departments ((see: This is Your Brain on Jane Austin, The Neuroscience of Your Brain on Fiction, and "If You Want to Lead, Read") is an invaluable asset to offset assumptions of bias when we tilt at the budgetary windmills alone.
And, in gratitude, we ought to also be careful in our own contributions to the conversations when they turn to the value of supporting other curricular areas that we may find ourselves less well informed about.