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The Epic and The Odyssey

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Amy Hayes

on 30 September 2015

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Transcript of The Epic and The Odyssey

Three Key Greek Ideas
The Odyssey
The Author
THIS Homer
"In literature, an epic is a long narrative poem. It recounts the adventures of an epic hero, a larger-than-life figure who undertakes great journeys and performs deeds requiring remarkable strength and cunning."
Other qualities of the Epic Poem
-Gods or supernatural beings play a role.
-Human, mortal, heroes, either national
or religious, fight against great odds and triumph, although for humans, death is always lurking in the distance.
-Violence and gore abound, described in detail!
-The setting is global.
-Elevated diction is used.
But wait, there's more!
•Use of epithets, kennings and epic similes.
Short, usually two- or three-word phrase that is used repeatedly to describe a character or other noun. It's going to use the word it is describing: aegis bearing
; wine dark
; Joltin’
Joe DiMaggio
•The narration is objective, third person.
•Narrative starts in medias res, with an invocation to the gods or Muses, and poses an epic question, that addresses a crucial theme of human life.
•Episodic plot structure: Plot is repeated in each episode, and the episodes can be interchanged, without losing the meaning of the story. (Compare to Dynamic or Climactic plot structure.)
Kennings: Similar to epithets, but usually replace the noun itself: ring-bearer (for king);
the whale road (for the sea); See how the word the kenning is describing isn't used?
Epic simile is a simile with an extended figurative end. These are scattered through The Odyssey.
For example:
Just as a lion beset by doubt and fear when he’s surrounded by a crowd of hunters closing in – a cunning ring – so was Penelope, while pondering, beset, until sweet sleep came suddenly.

The long description of the lion (figurative) is compared (using as) to Penelope (literal).
The Epic
•An epic hero is "a larger-than-life figure who undertakes great journeys and performs deeds requiring remarkable strength and cunning."
Not THIS Homer
An archetype is a pattern that appears in literature across cultures and is repeated through the ages. An archetype can be a character, a situation, an image, or a setting.
1. The Epic Hero (already defined)
2. Epic Plot: Involves a long journey, full of complications, such as...
strange creatures
large-scale events
divine intervention
treacherous weather
3. Epic setting which includes: fanastic or exotic lands and involves more than one nation.
4. Archetypes
sea monsters
buried treasure
epic hero
wicked temptress
suitor's contest
loyal servant
Epic themes reflect universal concerns such as...
a nation's fate
life and death
a homecoming
eternal human problems such as
the conflict between good and evil
the story is told in heightened language and exhibits epic conventions
Epic conventions are shared characteristics of epics.
6. Epic language
5. Epic themes
Epics were originally told orally (they were
not written down, they had to be
remembered) so bards (professional poets)
used epic conventions to remember the
stories as they retold them.
Examples of epic conventions are...
2. in media res
3. flashback
4. epic simile
5. epithet
6. allusion
1. invocation
In invocation is a formal plea for aid/help usually to a deity or some other spiritual power.

First line Book 1 of "The Odyssey"
"Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story..."
(What is a muse? An inspirational
goddess/deity of literature, science, arts, knowledge...)
the action begins "in the middle of things"
Since the epic begins in media res, in order to tell the backstory the narrative flashes to the past before the narrator's current time setting
An epic simile is a comparison between two unlike things, using the word "like" or "as," developed at great length, so that the epic simile goes on for several lines. Elaborately extended comparisons relating heroic events to simple, everyday events.

Example from Book 20 of "The Odyssey"
"...he himself rocked, rolling from side to side, as a cook turns a sausage, big with blood and fat, at a scorching blaze..." (compares Odysseus' rage to a roasting sausage)
An epithet is a brief descriptive phrase used to characterize a particular person or thing.
"son of Laertes"
"raider of cities"
An allusion is a reference to a famous person, place, event, or artwork/piece of literature.

Example: When Odysseus' son first sees the palace of Menelaus, he says, "This is the way the court of Zeus must be."

Other examples: “I thought the software would be useful, but it was a Trojan Horse.” “Chocolate was her Achilles’ heel.”
The epic journey is a genre that has lasted through Western literature

Mainly it consists of an untested young hero goes forth to seek truth, fights against superhuman odds, often traveling to the realm of death itself. He achieves glory and rewards, suffers great losses, and learns a key aspect of human life and the inescapable fact of mortality.
In the end, this journey is not unlike our journey through life.
The Epic Journey
The old hero fights his last battle and passes the torch, for all temporal things must perish, man and civilization. Sometimes, the earthly hero achieves apotheosis, but not always.
Although the message at the end of an epic is often foreboding, a kind of resurrection is imminent—like phoenix story, or the simple message to Nicodemus. (See Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey.)
In the end, the epic voyage is a not unlike our own voyage through life.
Now for the author, Homer!
This Homer!
Who is Homer?
•author of the Iliad and Odyssey
•scholars debate whether Homer really existed
•there are many theories about who Homer was and when and where he lived
•most likely lived sometime between 900 and 700 BC
•believed to have been blind
•most modern scholars agree that Homeric
poetry in the work
of one or two
talented poets
The Epic
The Odyssey
General comments
An epic poem written, presumably by Homer.
Written around 750-725 BC
The oldest written record of ancient Greece
Tells the tale of Odysseus, who gives the epic its name
The Age of Heroes

1600-1100 BCE

Heroic Age: Flourishing of Greek Empire
City of Troy is destroyed
Dark Age
Renaissance of Greek Empire: Time of Homer
Rise and Fall of Athens: Golden Age of Greece.
Persian and Peloponnesian Wars
Macedonian Invasion under Alexander the Great.
End of Greek Empire
-evidence of various versions of Troy
-destruction of Troy around 1193 BCE
likely by Greeks seeking trade routes
through the Dardanelles
The Iliad and The Odyssey and War
-part of the historical credo of ancient Greece
-tell of a time when the Greek city-states were unified and powerful politically.
-strength and cultural fortitude of the individual, embodied by Greek heroes, notably, Odysseus.
Trojan War
Writing of Homer
Peloponnesian Wars
Golden Age
were an essential component of ancient Greek culture
can, at any time, for any reason, help or hurt humans
represent nature, natural events and human qualities
the gods and goddesses can help or hurt but can not force humans to do anything they do not choose to do
3. Xenia
2. Time
1. Kleos
reciprocity leading to
kind treatment
of strangers
respectability an honorable man accrues with accomplishment (cultural, political, marital, etc)
seeking glory (Kudos: Praise) specifically glory in battle
Final Thoughts?
The Epic
The Author
The Odyssey
The Author
Just some basics here
The Odyssey
The Age of Heroes
A World at War
Key Greek Ideas
7. The epic hero often connects/makes contact with "lesser" humans in order to succeed but is also helped and harmed by interfering gods.
8. Also...the epic hero is an archetypal character (or archetype).
A Time of Transition
This period is moving
from the Code of Honor
to the Code of Hospitality
1. The epic hero is a great leader
who embodies the ideals and values
that a culture considers admirable.
2. The epic hero is on a quest/
journey to achieve something
of great value to themselves
or society.
3. The epic hero achieves a
type of immortality: he/she lives
on after death by being forever remembered by those who live
after them.
4. Possesses superhuman strength, craftiness, and but does not have
magical powers, but is a "regular"
human whose aspirations and accomplishments set him/her
5. The epic hero overcomes obstacles/opponents but maintains humanity emerging victorious from perilous situations.
6. The epic hero experiences typical
human emotions/feelings, yet is able
to master and control these human
traits to a greater degree than a
typical person.
Homer's World:

Colonization by the Greeks
Trade and exchange of ideas
Most likely individuals are illiterate
In fact, it was a world hostile to writing.
Writing was called the "drug of forgetfullness, silent but speaking."
It's possible that Homer was a poet but was illiterate himself, and his stories are written down later.
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