Sunday, September 23, 2012

TFBT: Homer’s Divine Audience: The Iliad’s Reception on Mount Olympus.

This is a review of a book that hasn’t been published yet, “Models of Reception in the Divine Audience of the Iliad” a dissertation by Tobias Anthony Myers.

Honestly, I don’t know how I ended up with a copy. I believe it will be published by Cambridge University Press under the title, “Homer’s Divine Audience: The Iliad’s Reception on Mount Olympus.I do not know Myers who is apparently a lecturer at Columbia University. I certainly feel pleased for having stumbled across his writings.

Myers basic premise is to compare Zeus and “the gods” watching to the Trojan War from Mt. Olympus, with the poet and the mortal audience listening to the tale. Primarily Myers arguments center around the four occasions when the gods are feasting on Olympus, Books 4, 7, 22 and 24. Where there is “sweet nectar
from the bowl. And unquenchable laughter“ feasting, happy hearts, and the sweet voices of the muses.

Some arguments are often lengthy, but well-written, easy to follow and satisfying. The benefit of his arguments is that they give sound motivation to actions and scenes that often appear lacking.

Imagine if you wil, that we have the honor to be gathered at a great feast and the entertainment is Homer himself. Like any performer, he would greet us, maybe pick stories that are pertinent or popular in our circles and maybe even play with our expectations. Myers suggests just this sort of interaction between the poet with his audience and Zeus with the divine audience. Homer using Zeus’ voice plays with the gods, suggests alternative endings to the little drama they’ve designed down below, plays with their emotions. In the same breathe the poet is doing the same to his mortal audience.

Myers also incorporates the language of sacred space into his readings of the Iliad which then offers the same performance dynamic for the Greeks and Trojans in the Iliad during games and in the arena. This could all get very complex, but Myers knows how to work his audience. It all comes across as brilliant.

Just a few quotes I’ve been tweeting;

  • “The Iliad is a ritual that simultaneously honors Troy in the distant past and wipes it out in the performances moment.”
  • In regards to the gods feasting on Mt. Olympus, Myers suggests, “it is striking that for the gods this situation seems to be an invention of epic.”
  • “Paris is responsible for the Trojan predicament, but Hector is responsible for Troy.”
  • "The Iliad’s power depends partly on the fact that in spite of this basic Achaean orientation it does not demonize the Trojans but instead portrays them more sympathetically than it does the Achaeans."
In conclusion, let me finish and summarize Myers’ arguments with a most telling passage. First Myers quotes Iliad 6.357-58 Upon [Paris and me] Zeus has set an evil fate, so that in the future as well we might be song-worthy for the men who are yet to be.” Myers then adds, “Even from her position within the story, Helen can assert to Hector (and to herself, the gods, and the future generations that will hear of her) that hers and Paris’ transgressions, and their grievous consequences, exist to satisfy the needs of the poetic medium.








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