Rabel, Robert J. 1948-

views updated

Rabel, Robert J. 1948-


Born 1948. Education: University of Pittsburgh, B.A., 1970; University of Michigan, M.A., Ph.D., 1975.


Office—Division of Classics, Department of Modern & Classical Languages, Literatures, & Cultures, University of Kentucky, 1055 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY 40506-0027. E-mail—[email protected]


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, teaching assistant and lecturer, 1973-75; University of Kentucky, Lexington, associate professor, 1975-97, professor of Greek and Roman, 1997—; Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, faculty member, Second International Institute for Semiotic and Structuralist Studies, 1982. Visiting associate professor, Dartmouth College, 1990-91.


Plot and Point of View in "The Iliad," University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1997.

(Editor) Approaches to Homer, Ancient & Modern, Classical Press of Wales (Swansea, Wales), 2005.


Author, educator, and historian Robert J. Rabel is a scholar who specializes in Greek literature and related areas, including Homeric epic and Greek and Roman literary criticism. Among his works are the edited title Approaches to Homer, Ancient & Modern, which contains a selection of critical essays that consider aspects of Homer's works "across temporal and disciplinary lines," according to a reviewer in the Reference & Research Book News.

In Plot and Point of View in "The Iliad," Rabel's "remarkable reading of the Iliad arises from the close attention he has paid to a core concept in narratology: point of view," observed Hilary S. Mackie in Classical Philology. With his work, Rabel steps beyond traditional critical approaches to Homer that suggest "certain passages are colored, or ‘focalized,’ by the attitudes and subjective experience of particular characters." Instead, for Rabel, "a basic inconsistency between various points of view is the principle from which the Iliad's whole meaning is to be derived," Mackie explained. Mackie also found Rabel's interpretation to be "innovative in two other ways." First, rather than make a casual distinction between the author of the poem and the narrator within the poem, Rabel identifies the narrator of the Iliad directly with the Muse, or the spiritual source of inspiration and creativity that helped guide Homerian works and other Greek writing. In addition, Rabel finds that the implied author of the poem does not narrate, but still maintains not only a presence within the poem, but an identifiable point of view as well.

Among other significant observations is Rabel's conclusion that the characters within the poem who tell the story of the events of the Iliad—Achilles, Agamemnon, and the Muse—"all structure the plot of the Iliad differently," reported Mackie. Though these characters tell what is essentially the same story, their versions create different points of view on the actions of the poem, defined by each character's individual perspective. "Overall, this book represents a well-written and imaginative interpretation of the Iliad," Mackie concluded. "The argument is articulated with clarity and elegance; the footnotes are concise and informative." Mackie further stated: "Most important, the book embodies proof of just how fruitful it can be to read the Homeric poems with a focus on point of view."



Classical Philology, July, 1999, Hilary S. Mackie, review of Plot and Point of View in "The Iliad," p. 336.

Reference & Research Book News, May, 2006, review of Approaches to Homer.


University of Kentucky Web site,http://www.uky.edu/ (September 29, 2006), biography of Robert J. Rabel.