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From enargeia to immersion: the ancient roots of a modern concept.


The notion of immersion was introduced into literary studies by Marie-Laure Ryan in her 1991 book Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory, and refers to the mental state of being absorbed in a virtual world such that one experiences it--to a certain extent--as if it were the actual world. Over the last few decades, immersion has enjoyed increasing attention from researchers across various academic disciplines and theoretical backgrounds. (1) It goes without saying that this growing interest in immersion has been stimulated considerably by the rapid development of new (digital) technologies in the field of 3D cinema, computer games, and virtual reality, which serve to enhance the experience of being immersed in a virtual world.

However, theoretical thought about the capacity of literature to give the reader a feeling of being present in the story world is not just a modern phenomenon. In fact, it is almost as old as Western literature itself. In this article, we wish to trace the "Poetics of Immersion" (as Ryan calls it in her 2001 book Narrative as Virtual Reality) back to its origin in antiquity. Our aim will be twofold. First, we will discuss how ancient Greek literary critics theorized about texts that make the audience feel present at past events within the narrative scene. They refer to this effect with terms like enargeia, ekstasis, and enagdnios, notions that can to a certain extent--as we will argue--be considered predecessors of the modern notion of immersion. The terms enargeia and enagdnios resist a straightforward translation. The substantive enargeia is defined by one ancient critic as "the power of bringing the things that are said before the senses of the audience" (2); the substantive ekstasis refers to the displacement or transportation of the listener, who is so astonished that he leaves his normal state, which may result in strong identification with the characters of the narrative; the adjective enagdnios is perhaps best translated as "actively involving."

The ancient critics unanimously praise Homer (circa eighth century BC) as one of the authors who is particularly capable of achieving enargeia in his narrative. Our second objective, therefore, is to examine the narrative techniques by which Homer achieves enargeia in his storytelling. The fact that Homer aims at immersing his audience mentally in the story world makes it clear that this important aspect of narrative art was already there at the very beginning of Western literature.


The ancient Greek term enargeia primarily refers to the "clearness" or "distinctness" of a perception, a description, or a narrative. Homer himself already uses the adjective enarges ("visible," "manifest") to describe dreams and gods who appear in visible form to human beings. In later times, Stoic and Epicurean philosophers employ the term enargeia to denote the "clear and distinct perception" of cognitive impressions. From the second century BC onwards, Greek literary critics (i.e., commentators and rhetoricians) start to use enargeia not only as a quality of the mental image that the author wishes to trigger in the mind of his audience, but also as a characteristic of the narrative text itself and more generally as a virtue of style that orators, historians, and poets aim to achieve in their texts. (3) Although rhetoricians believe that enargeia is a quality that all narratives should have, the term is particularly used to characterize the styles of the epic poet Homer, the historian Herodotus, and the orator Lysias.

The central idea of enargeia is that the story world appears so clearly to the listener that he experiences the illusion of being present at the events reported in the narrative. Many ancient sources draw attention to the visual effects of enargeia: "the listener is made into a spectator" is a popular formulation that we find in commentaries as well as rhetorical treatises. The strong involvement of the audience is, however, not only achieved by way of visualization. Apart from visual effects, the rhetoricians and commentators also point to acoustic effects, which are for instance created by onomatopoetic words that mimetically suggest the sounds of the action described. By "seeing" and "hearing" the events, the listener becomes deeply involved in the narrative, as the distance to the narrative world seems to be reduced to zero: the events appear to take place in front of the listener, who believes that he could almost talk to the characters. Such effects will often result not only in cognitive but also in emotional involvement of the audience.

One ancient critic (first century BC) describes the enargeia of the orator Lysias as follows: "This consists in a certain power he has of bringing the things he is describing before the senses of his audience, and it arises out of his grasp of circumstantial detail. Nobody who applies his mind to the speeches of Lysias will be so obtuse, insensitive or slow-witted that he will not feel that he can see the actions which are being described going on and that he is meeting face-to-face the characters in the orator's story." (4)

Apart from describing events "in detail," as this critic recommends, the narrator can use various other tools to achieve enargeia. Commentators and rhetoricians find that Homer achieves enargeia not only by using detailed descriptions and sound effects, but also by presenting speeches by characters, by turning the listener into virtual eyewitnesses ("there you might have seen"), and by apostrophe (i.e., the narrator addressing one of the characters in his narrative).

How does enargeia relate to "immersion"? Both terms refer to the mental state of a reader or listener who experiences the illusion of being "present" at the events and characters of the narrative. In both cases, the distance between the narrative world and the narratee is collapsed, but there is an interesting difference in the direction of the dislocation that the two terms suggest. According to the ancient concept, the narrative world appears and presents itself clearly to the narratee, who stays where he is: here it is the story characters who travel over long distances in time and place in order to appear clearly in the presence of the audience. The modern concept on the other hand supposes the opposite movement, as in this case the narratee feels as if he leaves his own world while being "immersed" into the world of the story characters: the latter idea seems to imply a more passive role on the part of the narratee, who is now himself the one who is dislocated and transferred.

But the concept of a listener who is displaced into the story world was in fact not unknown to the ancient scholars. Two terms are relevant here: ekstasis and enagonios. The Greek substantive ekstasis ("displacement," "movement outwards") can refer to the enchanting effects of passages in prose and poetry, which transport listeners "out of themselves." The ancient critic Longinus (first or third century AD) pays much attention to this dislocating experience of narrative, which he deems characteristic of sublime moments in literature. One form of ekstasis is particularly relevant to the modern concept of "immersion." Longinus points out that the reader can be so strongly involved in the narrative that he may in fact feel as if he has become part of the narrative. (5) In this context Longinus also uses the Greek adjective enagonios (often translated as "vehement," "energetic," or "vivid"), which describes a text, a narrative, or a style that is "actively involving." When the narrator unexpectedly uses the second person, the listener feels as if "he is in the presence of the action itself." The historian Herodotus, for instance, "takes you along with him through the country and turns hearing into sight" (de Jonge 27, 2). According to Longinus, this device "often makes the audience feel themselves set in the middle of danger." This ancient formulation comes quite close to saying that the narratee is "immersed" into the story world. (6)


As the ancient critics already recognized, a poet who shows an expert knowledge of how to effect immersion with his listeners is Homer. A famous Homerist, Samuel Bassett, in this context spoke of "the epic illusion":

All great poetry at its best transports us to the realms of gold. If for the moment we can put reason in abeyance, we are "enthralled." The spell of poetry can make the hearer forget both himself and the poet and the real world about him.... The story [in Homer] seems almost to tell itself. The words which transport us to the world of the heroes come from a source so submerged from view that the heroic life seems to move of its own vitality. (26-27)

Other scholars praise Homer's "exceptional vividness":

Many factors contribute to the exceptional vividness of Homeric poetry ... there are the many bright words that described the heroic world ... There are the many particles which keep the audience engaged and draw attention to salient points in the narrative. And there are grand panoramic vistas, and detailed observations at close quarters.

But above all, there is the poet's ability to connect with our own perceptions, even across a gulf of almost three millennia. It is not difficult to visualise, for example, Astyanax, as he recoils, screaming, into his nurse's arms--because we have all seen little children behave like that. (Graziosi and Haubold 23-24)

And in a recent study on space in the Iliad, Jenny Strauss Clay calls Homer "the most visual of poets" (11).

Actually, "visual" is, perhaps, not the best label to give the Homeric epics since, as Lessing already famously remarked in his Laokoon (1766), Homer refrains from describing the beautiful Helen. And had the poet been more precise and systematic in his descriptions of Troy and Ithaca, archaeologists would have had less trouble locating those sites. The ancient notions of enargeia and enagonios and the modern notion of immersion, which all involve more than mere visualization, much better capture the nature of Homer's spell.

In her 2001 book, Ryan discusses a number of narrative strategies that facilitate the reader's transportation onto the scene, such as focalization, scenic narration (vs. summery), direct discourse, free indirect discourse, deictic shift, and suspense. (7) Many of these but also some additional immersive devices, which were already identified in antiquity, can be found in Homer. (8) We will discuss the Homeric immersive narrative strategies under three headings: spatio-temporal immersion, identification, and the covert narrator.

Spatio-Temporal Immersion

In a prototypical storytelling situation, there is a spatial and temporal distance between the world of narration and the story world. The narrator speaks to the narratee about a past world located at a distance from the here-and-now of the storytelling. According to Ryan, "spatio-temporal immersion takes place when this distance is reduced to zero" (Possible Worlds 130). The reader feels as if he or she is transported mentally and bodily onto the narrated scene. An important aspect of the spatial dimension of immersion is the reader's mental representation of the story setting. The texts should feed the reader with enough spatial and perceptual clues in order to create a detailed ("vivid") mental "picture" of the storyworld. (9)

A first device that helps the narratees to mentally picture what they are being told by Homer is the epithet. There is hardly a line in both Iliad and Odyssey that does not contain an epithet: "swift-footed" Achilles, "steep" or "well-walled" Troy, "fair-haired" Menelaus, and Mycene "rich in gold." Scholars, already in antiquity, but especially since the work of Milman Parry in the 1920s and 1930s, have debated the force of these epithets, which are used repeatedly and even in inappropriate contexts. (10) But no one will deny their cumulative effect of evoking (aspects of) the visual world of the epics.

Just as famous a characteristic of Homeric epic is the simile. (11) If Homer is sparing with details about the setting of his story, he indulges in descriptions of landscape in his similes, for example:

He [Diomedes] swept over the plain like a river full in winter spate, which bursts dykes in the speed of its current. The close-built dykes cannot hold it, nor is it checked by the enclosures of thriving vineyards as it comes in a sudden flood, when the rain from Zeus falls heavy: and many sturdy farmers see it destroy the fruit of their labour. (12) (Iliad 5.87-92)

The visualizing effect of similes is twofold. Not only does the simile invite the audience to picture mentally the alternative world so graphically evoked, it also enriches ("vivifies") the audience's mental representation of an element in the story world: in this case it enhances our visualization of Diomedes' devastating sweep over the battle field. (13)

A similar twofold effect is achieved in another Homeric simile, which was already praised in antiquity. It vividly illustrates the flood of the river that overtakes Achilles:

he [Achilles] tried to run clear, away from the advancing water, but the river streamed on in pursuit, crashing loud behind him. As when a man channels water from a dark-welling spring and directs its flow among his plants and garden-plots, knocking the dams from its trench with a mattock in his hand: as the water starts to flow it clears all the pebbles from its path, then gathers speed and runs gurgling down over the sloping ground, outstripping the man who guides it. So the river's rolling wave was always overtaking Achilles, however fast he ran. (Iliad 21.255-64)

The ancient critic Demetrius observes that the use of precise detail in this passage contributes to its enargeia: "this comparison owes its vividness (to enarges) to the fact that all accompanying details are included and nothing is omitted." (14)

Another moment of detailed visualization consists in Homer describing at length an object in what we usually call ekphrasis. (15) The best-known example is the long description of Achilles' new shield in Iliad 18.478-608, where Homer minutely describes eight depictions on the shield. One of these is a ploughing scene:

On the shield he [Hephaestus] placed a soft fallow, a fertile field, thrice-ploughed, In it many ploughmen, while wheeling their yoked teams, were driving these teams back and forth. And whenever they turned and reached the end of the field, a man would give them a cup of honey sweet wine, coming up to them. And other ploughmen turned along their furrows, eager to reach the end of the deep fallow. The fallow became dark behind them, and it really looked like a ploughed fallow, even though it was of gold. It was a real wonder to behold. (Iliad 18.541-49)

This passage makes it clear that, if he so wants, Homer is very well able to describe something in clear visual terms: the narratee can easily picture the scene of the ploughing men, including the darkening of the fresh earth being ploughed, and is invited by the narrator to admire this work of pictorial art. At the same time, this passage confirms our thesis that Homer's enargeia or immersion entails more than mere visual detail: thus he refers to various sensory perceptions that can be ascribed to the ploughmen such as touch ("soft fallow") and taste ("honeysweet wine"). He also describes the ploughmen's feelings ("eager to reach the end of the deep fallow"), thereby turning his description almost into a narrative. This shows that while describing what was to be seen, he at the same time imagines what it is like to be a ploughman in all its perceptual and emotional aspects and thus encourages us to make a leap of the imagination and to identify with the ploughmen, too. (16)

A final device that arguably helps narratees to picture the events is the preponderance of the scenic rhythm in Homer. Narratologists, inspired by Gerard Genette, distinguish between various forms of rhythm or speed in a narrative: a narrator can opt for a scenic rhythm whereby the time of narration more or less approaches the narrated time (a complete equation is of course impossible; James Joyce's Ulysses is about as close as one can get), a summary, whereby the time of narration is much shorter than the narrated time, and a retardation, whereby the time of narration is much longer than the narrated time. All three rhythms are employed by Homer, but the largest part of his narrative is told in scenic rhythm, including the lavish quotation of speeches (see the below section on the covert narrator). This leisured and, one could say, natural rhythm allows the narratees to experience the events in--approximately--their actual speed, as if they were unfolding before their very eyes.

The narratee will be immersed in the narrative not only when "seeing," but also when "hearing" the events in the narrative. This is one aspect of Homeric poetry to which ancient scholars seem to have been more sensitive than modern readers. The language of Homer can mimetically present the events, so that the narratee is under the impression of actually hearing what happens. The ancient critic Demetrius cites a few examples, like the line on the Cyclops' cruel treatment of Odysseus' men: "He struck them down, and out spurted their brains," where the repeated k's (kopt', ek d'enkephalos) suggest blows. A second example concerns the acoustic jingle, caused by the rhyming words, the high number of a-sounds, and the dactylic rhythm, that portrays the gallop of mules in "on and on they went, upwards, downwards, sidewards" (polla d'ananta katanta paranta). Demetrius observes that here "Homer intended the cacophony to imitate the jerkiness, and all imitation has an element of enargeia" (17)


Another set of narrative devices to stimulate the reader's sense of presence in the story world is by providing readers with a viewpoint within the narrated scene, encouraging them to identify with that viewpoint. The most natural of such figures of identification is the narratee, the intratextual counterpart of the listener or reader. But the viewpoint may also be that of a story character (in which case we are dealing with embedded focalization) or an anonymous hypothetical eyewitness on the scene, or even a depersonalized "camera-eye." (18)

Even though the Homeric narrator nowhere addresses his narratees qua narratees, as later novelists are wont to do ("dear reader"), there are clear indications that he is aware of their existence and indeed expects them to involve themselves in the events told; for example:

But as for the son of Tydeus, you would not have been able to discern which side he fought on, whether he was of the Trojan camp or the Greek. (Iliad 5.85-86)

The ancient critic Longinus comments on these Homeric lines and observes that the use of the second person involves the reader in the narrative: "By appearing to address not the whole audience but a single individual ... you will move him more and make him more attentive and full of active interest, because he is roused by the appeals to him in person." (19) In the same vein, the Homerist Scott Richardson remarks that turning the narratee into a kind of virtual eyewitness gives "the immediate scene more vividness than an ordinary description would have offered." (20)

Embedded focalization, when a narrator recounts events as seen and experienced by characters (without turning them into speakers), long deemed a modern invention, is found regularly (5 percent of the text) in the Homeric epics; for example:

And Andromache saw him [her husband Hector] while his body was being dragged in front of the city. Speedy horses were dragging it ruthlessly towards the hollow ships. (Iliad 22.463-65)

Andromache's focalization transpires very clearly from the narrator's use of a word like "ruthlessly" (literally: "without proper care"); this expresses her dismay at seeing the body of her husband not receiving the burial rituals he is entitled to, but instead being dragged through the dust by Achilles. Clearly, the Homeric listener or reader is supposed to share Andromache's emotional focalization. (21)

The Homeric epics also offer examples of what Herman calls hypothetical focalization: "the use of hypotheses, framed by a narrator or a character, about what might have been seen or perceived in the story world" (8). A highly effective instance:

Then no longer would a man having arrived on the scene make light of the action, who still unscathed by throw or stab of the sharp bronze would roam at the battle's centre, and Pallas Athene would lead him by the hand and keep him safe from the flying weapons. Because on that day many of the Trojans and Greeks lay stretched side by side, face down in the dust. (Iliad 4.539-44)

The Homeric narrator introduces "a man," an anonymous virtual observer, who like an embedded war reporter visits the Iliadic theatre of war.

The Byzantine commentator Eustathius already suggested that "the man" is to be connected with the hearer or reader: "such a spectator might have been the hearer of the poet, who does not partake in the misery of the war but who enjoys in his mind the splendid spectacle of these war stories." (22) We may agree with his immersive reading, though not with his final suggestion that the device leads to enjoyment. Rather, the listener is supposed to be impressed and emotionally moved by the heavy battles and many casualties of that day in the Trojan War. (23)

Apart from these occasionally used devices of addresses to the narratee, embedded focalization, and hypothetical focalization, there is a more frequent device that draws readers into the story and encourages them to identify with the characters. This is the preponderance of the scenic narratorial standpoint, which can be compared with "medium shots" in filmmaking. The Homeric narrator at times also takes up a panoramic position ("wide shot") or opts for a close up, but he overwhelmingly (in about 95 percent of his text) chooses to position himself on the scene, among the protagonists of his story; for example:

Odysseus and the excellent swineherd were preparing breakfast in the hut at daybreak, having lit a fire, and sent the herdsmen out with their herds of pigs. And the dogs fawned round Telemachus who was arriving and did not bark. Godlike Odysseus noticed that the dogs were fawning and the sound of feet reached his ears. (Odyssey 16.1-6)

The narrator "sits" in the hut of the swineherd Eumaeus, together with Odysseus and his slave, and narrates the arrival of Telemachus in that hut. (24) At the end of the passage, he offers his narratee an even stronger form of identification, embedding the focalization of Odysseus and recounting what he sees and hears: the dogs fawning and the sound of feet.

Another device aimed at involving the reader in the story, which, as we saw in section "Ancient Greek Theory on Enargeia" was already mentioned by ancient critics, is the apostrophe. The Homeric narrator at times addresses his characters as if he were a bystander on the scene, thereby bridging the distance in time and space that in principle separates him and his narratees from the heroes:

Then who was the first, and who the last that you killed, Patroclus, when the gods called you to your death? (Iliad 16.692-3)

Ancient commentators interpreted Homer's apostrophe of Patroclus as a pathetic device, which shows the narrator's feelings of pity with this gentle character about to be killed because he wanted to help his compatriots, feelings that he obviously also wants to engender in his narratees. (25)

These apostrophes can be considered instances of the extreme form of identification known as metalepsis. This term, already employed by ancient theorists of rhetoric, (26) but given new life by Genette (Metalepse), is used by narratologists to refer to the situation in which the principal distinction between the universes in a narrative text is broken down or violated: the narrator (along with his narratees) "enters" the universe of the characters or, conversely, a character "enters" the universe of the narrator and narratees. (27) Here we would argue that the narrator and his narratees "enter" the story world of the heroic past and "converse" with one of its characters, at the dramatic moment of his death. (28) It is important to realize that the effect of metalepsis is crucially different in modern and in ancient texts: in modern texts instances of metalepsis usually have a strongly disruptive (often comic) force, while in ancient texts they "are for the most part serious (rather than comic) and are aimed at increasing the authority of the narrator and the realism of the narrative (rather than breaking the illusion)" (de Jong, Metalepsis 115). This leads us to our last category of immersive devices.

Covert Narrator

For narratees to experience an "illusion of immediacy," the role of the narrator as a mediating instance in the narration should be as invisible as possible. (29) To use Benveniste's words, "the events seem to tell themselves." As the quotation from Bassett at the opening of the section "The Immersive Qualities of the Homeric Epics" already showed, the Homeric epics very much show that quality. The Homeric narrator by and large is a covert one: apart from two brief Muse invocations and the occasional narratorial comment, he does not show himself in his narration. This is not to say that he is not, as Booth puts it, "constantly at our elbow, controlling rigorously our beliefs, our interests, and our sympathies," but he does so in subtle and implicit ways. (30)

Moreover, Homer very often steps back and gives the floor to his characters. No less than 45 percent of the Iliad, and 66 percent of the Odyssey, consists of direct speech. At such moments, the narratees as it were hear the characters themselves speak. And Homer greatly increases the impact of his speeches in that they are highly "mimetic": the main characters have their own idiolect and all characters use deictic words that the narratees can mentally translate into gestures. An example is Athena speaking to Odysseus when she has removed the mist around Ithaca and he can finally see his homeland again:

"But look now, I will show you the site of Ithaca, in order for you to be sure. This here is the harbour named after Phorcys, the old man of the sea, and this is the long-lived olive tree at the head of the harbour. And that is the wide arching cave." (Odyssey 13-344-51)

The profusion of deictics ("this here," "this," "that") encourage the narratees to picture Athena pointing out the Ithacan landmarks to Odysseus, landmarks that for the two characters are real and visible (Buhler's "demonstratio ad oculos"), but for the narratees are of course only an example of "Deixis am Phantasma." (31)

Speaking about the "mimetic" qualities of Homeric speech, this may be the right point to correct some misconceptions about this much-used but elusive word. Its status as a technical term of literary criticism derives from Plato (.Republic III.392c-94b), who used it to distinguish speech from the narrative parts (diegesis) in a narrative text. Plato's mimesis versus diegesis is sometimes erroneously equated with the modern opposition "showing versus telling." The latter contrast could perhaps be drawn back to antiquity, be it not to Plato but rather to Aristotle, who seems--according to one interpretation--to hint at the difference between showing and telling in the Poetics. Aristotle uses mimesis in a broader sense than Plato, distinguishing mimetic genres from nonmimetic ones. In Poetics 24 (146035-11), he praises Homer for speaking as little as possible in his own voice: "For the poet should say as little as possible in his own voice, as it is not this that makes him a mimetic artist." (32) Two interpretations of this passage can be considered. Most scholars argue that Aristotle praises Homer for including many speeches by characters in his poems, while limiting the amount of pure narrative (diegesis): the narrator says little in his own voice, because he makes the characters speak for themselves. A different interpretation of the same passage is that Aristotle refers to the "covertness" of the Homeric narrator: the poet says little in his own voice in the sense that he rarely interferes in the story (he shows rather than tells)--apart from the proem and the invocations of the Muse, the narrator is invisible. Either way Aristotle clearly recognized the mimetic character the epic poems of Homer, whom he regarded as preeminent "not only in quality but also in composing dramatic mimesis." (33)


The phenomenon of a reader or listener being lost or drawn into the story world has received wide attention from scholars working on modern literature, film, and media studies. We have argued that immersion was already an important notion in ancient Greek literature, both in practice and in theory. The immersive qualities of Homeric narrative that we have discussed were to a large degree also recognized by ancient literary critics: they developed their own terms and concepts to understand what happens to a listener who experiences the illusion of being present at the events and characters in the narrative.

It may be instructive to conclude by returning once more to Homer. For it seems that he, in his celebrated indirect way, has himself encoded the immersive quality of his narrative in his own text. In the Odyssey, he more than once brings on stage alter egos of himself, professional singers. Their audiences react with enchantment (Od. 11.334; 13.2), and indeed at some places storytelling is qualified a form of "spell" (Od. 17.514). (34) Here we have come full circle, since one of the theorists of immersion, MarieLaure Ryan, lists exactly such enchantment among the effects of immersion, together with concentration, imaginative involvement, entrancement, and addiction (Narrative as Virtual Reality 98-99). Homer's description of the spell-binding effects of epic narrative thus anticipates the theory of immersion in modern scholarship. (35)

Rutger J. Allan


Irene J. F. de Jong


Casper C. de Jonge


RUTGER J. ALLAN is a lecturer in Ancient Greek at the Free University Amsterdam. He has published on a variety of topics in Ancient Greek linguistics, with a special interest in the linguistic aspects of narrative texts. He is the author of The Middle Voice in Ancient Greek. A Study in Polysemy (Brill, 2003).

IRENE J. F. DE JONG is a professor of Ancient Greek at the University of Amsterdam. She has published extensively on Homer, Herodotus, Euripides, and ancient narrative in general. Recent publications include Narratology and Classics. A Practical Guide (Oxford UP, 2014).

CASPER C. DE JONGE is a lecturer in Ancient Greek at Leiden University. His research focuses on ancient rhetorical theory and literary criticism. He is the author of Between Grammar and Rhetoric. Dionysius of Halicarnassus on Language, Linguistics and Literature (Brill, 2008).


(1.) Related concepts are "aesthetic illusion" (Wolf; Wolf, Bernhart, and Mahler) and "transportation" (Gerrig). See also Wolf's article ("Illusion [Aesthetic]") in the Living Handbook of Narratology. Some of the ideas presented here were first published in Dutch: see Allan, De Jong, and De Jonge.

(2.) Usher 7, 1-2: see the section "Ancient Greek Theory on Enargeia"

(3.) Zanker offers an excellent introduction to enargeia in the ancient criticism of poetry. There are several recent discussions. Nunlist (194-98) examines the concept of enargeia ("graphic quality") in the ancient commentaries on Homer. Otto explores the role of enargeia in Hellenistic poetry. Webb demonstrates that enargeia was the essential characteristic of the rhetorical exercises in ekphrasis. Plett deals with the history of enargeia from antiquity to early modern times.

(4.) Usher 7, 1-2. Translation adapted from Usher. The formulation reminds us of Aristotle, who pays much attention to the visual aspects of rhetoric and to what he calls "bringing before the eyes": Rhetoric 3.11 (141122-25).

(5.) de Jonge 26, 1-3. For ekstasis, see esp. On the Sublime 1.4. Cf. de Jonge 280-81.

(6.) Ibid 26, 1. On the term enagdnios, see Ooms and De Jonge.

(7.) See Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality 120-62.

(8.) Cf. also Ford (55): the quality of Homer's poetry consists in making "the invisible past appear to its hearers"; Bakker, Poetry in Speech 55, "Pointing to the Past" 18: "the Homeric narrator typically adopts the stance of an eye-witness to the events he describes ..., sometimes even staging his audience as spectators to the scene."

(9.) This does not mean, however, that the text needs to provide the reader with an exhaustive description of the setting (if that would be possible, at all). A literary narrative will only give a specific selection of perceptional details that enable the reader to mentally "flesh out" the picture on the basis of his/her personal experiences or general world knowledge.

(10.) For an overview of scholarship see lemma "epithet" in The Homer Encyclopedia. For ancient scholarship on Homer's epithets, see Nunlist (299-306).

(11.) For Homeric similes, see, for example, Moulton; Ready. For ancient scholarship on Homeric similes, see Nunlist (282-98).

(12.) Translations are by Hammond, with occasional adaptations.

(13.) The effect of similes can be described as a conceptual blend of two domains: a specific element of the target domain (Diomedes' movement on the battle field) is enhanced by a vivid element (or elements) selected from the source domain (a swollen river sweeping over dykes). For similes as conceptual blends, see Dancygier and Sweetser (137-47).

(14.) Demetrius, On Style 209. Translation Innes in Halliwell et al. One might compare this Homeric simile to Virgil, Georgics 1, 104-10.

(15.) In ancient rhetoric, ekphrasis can be concerned with actions, persons, and objects. For discussions of the notion of ekphrasis in antiquity, see Webb.

(16.) For discussions of the Shield of Achilles and other ekphrases in Homer, see, for example, Becker; Koopman.

(17.) Demetrius, On Style 219. Translation Innes in Halliwell et al. The lines cited are Hammond 9, 289-90 and Iliad 23, 116. There are similar observations in the scholia on Homer.

(18.) See also Wolf's notion of "perspectival identification" (Wolf, Bernhart, and Mahler 12 and 47-48).

(19.) Longinus, On the Sublime 26.3. Translation Fyfe and Russell in Halliwell et al. Note that Longinus himself uses the second person here, thereby involving his own reader.

(20.) Richardson 175; see also de Jong, Narrators and Focalizers 54-60. Other examples of addresses of the narratee are found in Iliad 4.223-5, 429-31; 15.697-98; 17.366-67.

(21.) For discussion of embedded focalization in Homer, see de long, Narrators and Focalizers 101-48, and Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey, passim; for scholia discussing the effect (of course without using the word), see Nunlist 126-31. From a linguistic perspective, it is interesting to note that Homer uses the imperfective aspect (i.e., present stem) twice: "was being dragged" (Greek: helkomenon) and "were dragging" (helkon). The imperfective aspect indicates that the action is viewed from an internal viewpoint rather than from an external, retrospective viewpoint. The imperfective aspect is used very often by Homer to evoke an internal perspective onto the scene and thereby to enhance the immersive quality of the narrative.

(22.) Eustathius 1.802.11-12 Van der Valk (Iliad 4.539).

(23.) See de Jong, Narrators and Focalizers 59.

(24.) For discussion of the various narratorial standpoints in Homer, see de Jong and Nunlist.

(25.) See Sch. bT Iliad 16.692-93: "the poet always suffers/feels affection for Patroclus." There are many modern discussions of apostrophe in Homer; for an overview of studies, see de Jong, Metalepsis 94.

(26.) See Wagner 235-37.

(27.) See, for example, Fludernik; Pier and Schaeffer.

(28.) For metalepsis in Homer and in ancient literature, see de Jong Metalepsis; Eisen and Mollendorff.

(29.) See Stanzel 192; Wolf in Wolf, Bernhart, and Mahler 47, 211.

(30.) Booth 4-5; see Griffin 103-43; de Jong, Narrators and Focalizers.

(31.) Buhler 123.

(32.) Translation Halliwell in Halliwell et al.

(33.) Poetics 4 (i448b35). On the different interpretations of Aristotle's views on the Homeric narrator in Poetics 24 (146035-11), see de Jong, "Aristotle." On mimesis in general, see Halliwell.

(34.) See Walsh 3-21.

(35.) We would like to thank Ruth Webb for her suggestions and corrections of the penultimate version of this article.


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Date:Mar 22, 2017
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