[Milton-L] Final lines -- an observation

Jason Kerr aelfric at gmail.com
Thu Feb 24 18:28:59 EST 2011


Following on Hannibal's mention of the catalogue of ships, and in keeping
with the reminder in Carrol's lovely reflection that the *Iliad* concludes
with a burial, I want to make a case for reading/teaching the catalogues of
death, in which long lists of named soldiers, after having their brains
splattered about in their helmets (or similarly grisly descriptions), will
never return to their (often also named) parents, wives, children, or
fields. In my experience reading the poem as a whole for the first time as
an undergraduate, these catalogues proved key to the poem's power. Not only
do they allow for the sense that something on a different order of magnitude
is happening when Achilles finally enters the battle and starts slaughtering
people by the nameless dozens, but they also set up the feeling of
transgression that attends Achilles' treatment of Hector's body and refusal
to return it, thereby contributing to the resolution provided by Hector's
burial at the end.

I say this because these catalogues of death are easy to cut or skim, but
taken all together they are the part of the poem that has left the deepest
and most lasting impression on me. They are the reason why I think the *
Iliad* is one of the greatest things ever written. Just my two cents.

Jason A. Kerr

On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 5:02 PM, Hannibal Hamlin
<hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com>wrote:

> Someone I found very suggestive and useful when teaching The Iliad some
> years back was Gregory Nagy. His *The Best of the Achaeans* is excellent,
> and there's also *Homeric Questions*, which deals with questions like oral
> tradition and myth. I'd also recommend a piece by W.H. Auden (not sure
> where, off-hand -- perhaps in *The Dyer's Hand*? -- someone on the list
> will know) in which he makes a wonderful case for relishing the catalogue of
> the ships. He says something to the effect that to fail to appreciate this
> catalogue is to miss something fundamental about Homer's aesthetic.
>
> Hannibal
>
>
>
>
> On Thu, Feb 24, 2011 at 2:33 PM, Samuel Smith <SSmith at messiah.edu> wrote:
>
>>  Tony and Jim,
>>
>> Both essays are available in a single volume published by the New York
>> Review of Books, which includes a third essay on Bespaloff's reading by
>> Hermann Broch.  "War and the Iliad," 2005.
>>
>> Samuel
>>
>> >>> Tony Demarest <tonydemarest at hotmail.com> 2/24/2011 12:26 PM >>>
>> Jim-
>>
>> If you can, Simone Weil's essay on the *Iliad: a Poem of Force* is
>> excellent for revealing a modern appeal; Rachel Bespaloff has written an
>> essay which may in response to Weil's. Both done during WWII, I think.
>>
>> Tony
>>
>> ------------------------------
>> Date: Thu, 24 Feb 2011 11:12:57 -0500
>> Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Final lines -- an observation
>> From: jamesrovira at gmail.com
>> To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
>>
>> On a note related to our very interesting discussion of the Iliad: I'll be
>> teaching the Iliad for the first time this coming Fall in a Comparative
>> Mythology course.  Any suggestions for teaching it?  Suggestions for
>> individual or group activities, recommended approaches, companion texts,
>> other works to pair with it, etc., would all be appreciated.
>>
>> Thank you,
>>
>> Jim R
>>
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>
>
>
> --
> Hannibal Hamlin
> Associate Professor of English
> Editor, Reformation
> Organizer, The King James Bible and its Cultural Afterlife
> http://kingjamesbible.osu.edu/
> The Ohio State University
> 164 West 17th Ave., 421 Denney Hall
> Columbus, OH 43210-1340
> hamlin.22 at osu.edu/
> hamlin.hannibal at gmail.com
>
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-- 
The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
and invisible guests come in and out at will.

           —Czeslaw Milosz, from "Ars Poetica?"
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