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To study Homer’s Iliad and its varied influence in antiquity.
Greek mythology has provided some of the enduringly “classic” stories for the western tradition, and from among them myths of Troy have been perhaps most influential on later poets, philosophers, and artists. After surveying major themes and theories of Greek mythology, this module will focus on two differing treatments of the Trojan War: Homer’s Iliad and selections from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The product of a martial, heroic and oral society, the Iliad explores the consequences of honour, friendship and the warrior ethos—an intensely tragic work about a young hero-king facing the finality of death. Ovid’s Metamorphoses, by contrast, hails from the literary circles of Augustan Rome and is often far lighter in tone. With an eye to the wit and erudition of an Alexandrian aesthetic, it weaves stories untold by Homer (e.g. wedding of Peleus and Thetis) into a tapestry of human and divine “metamorphoses”--even while the Homeric poems remain a constant and pervasive influence. The module will conclude with a brief glance at the notion of “metamorphosis” in the Iliad—through Simone Weil’s interpretive essay, Iliad or Poem of Force, and Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven. In all this module aims to provide a focussed introduction to two central literary classics, illustrating how Greek myth has been adapted to the most varied genres and cultural settings, from Archaic bards to Augustan poets, from Homeric rhapsodes to Hollywood.