Homer and the Art of Performative Technical Communication

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A historiographic survey of the early history of technical communication may strike as unnecessary, particularly since the earliest history of technical communication begins and ends with the sophists and Aristotle. Though scholars have occasionally referenced archaic literature in their analysis of the discourse of technical communication, their arguments focus on rhetorical and poetic devices, such as tropes and schemes, to argue that technical writers could better serve their writing by using these ancient figures of speech. While such inquiries are useful, they have constrained and prevented inquiries that explore earlier examples of technical communication that pre-date Aristotle. Though classical rhetoric, framed as the parental discourse of technical communication, has included the Homeric canon as part of its discourse, technical communication scholars have not. This effort explores the connections between technical communication and samples of Homeric representations of archaic technical communication in The Iliad and Odyssey. Textual evidence from the Homeric verses suggests that technical communication was integrated in the heroic and epic narratives as catalogic lists and procedural language because this technical information was used in primary oral societies as encyclopedic knowledge, one that was taught from the primary educators of early Hellas—the poets—to their audiences. The results of this study suggest that the boundaries of the discourse map of technical communication be expanded to include not only Homeric epics but other archaic technical narratives and stories, including works of fiction.

history, historiography, New Historicism, Homer, archaic technical communication, storytelling, catalogic encyclopedia, performative technical communication