The Greek Epic Cycle and its Reception
In the Arts, Literature, Vase-Painting, Theatre, Film, and Video Games (in Antiquity, as well as in the Contemporary World)
Conference Date: June 30, 2021
Starting time: 6:00 AM MDT, 7:00 AM CDT, 8:00 AM EDT, 9:00 AM BRT, 1:00 PM BST, 2:00 PM CEST, 3:00 PM EEST, 9:00 PM Tokyo
The Center for Hellenic Studies is pleased to announce the contributors to the upcoming Kyklos 2021 online conference. The event will be open to the public; the schedule and registration information is forthcoming.
List of Contributors
Chair: Professor Yoshinori Sano (International Christian University, Tokyo)
1. To Make a Wooden Horse (Ioannis Doukas, NUI Galway, Ireland)
2. From Troy to Colchis: The ‘Argonautic Cycle’ of Apollonius Rhodius (Manos Tsakiris, University of Edinburgh)
Chair: Dr. Naoko Yamagata (The Open University of the UK)
3. The Reception of the Trojan Cycle in Greek Vase-Painting: The Case of Sosias’ Cup (Isabella Nova, Università Cattolica di Milano)
4. Akkamas at Synnada (Christos Aristopoulos, University of Cyprus)
In the Contemporary World
Chair: Professor Gregory Nagy
5. From Oral Tradition to Video Games: Epic Poetry in the Realm of Player-Led Digital Story-Telling (Thanos Makris, King’s College London)
Chairs: Professors Justin Arft (The University of Tennessee at Knoxville), Efimia Karakantza (University of Patras), Jonathan Burgess (University of Toronto)
6. The Epic Cycle in Ismail Kadare’s Agamemnon’s Daughter and The Successor (Blaž Zabel, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia)
7. Christos Chomenidis’ Use of Proclus’ Summaries in His novel “Ο βασιλιάς της” [“Her King”] (Vasiliki Avramidi, Università di Bologna)
8. Reception of the Iliad and the Epic Cycle in Postcolonial Literature by João Guimarães Rosa: The Greek Hero in the Brazilian Backlands (Lorena Lopes da Costa, Federal University of Western Pará – Brazil)
9. Retracing Classical Motifs: Classical Reception of the Greek Epic Cycle in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion (Manolis Pagkalos, University of Groningen; Manolis Spanakis, Department of Philology, University of Crete)
Theatre / Film
Chair: Professor Lynn Kozak (McGill University, Montreal)
10. Achilles and the Epic Cycle in Early Modern Spanish Theatre (Yoandy Cabrera Ortega, Assistant Professor of Classics and Spanish, Rockford University, IL)
11. Men of Constant Comedy: The Comic Reception of the Odyssey(s) in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Loes Wolters, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands)
Chair: Professor Jonathan Burgess (University of Toronto)
12. Penthesilea (Tjaden Lotito, Western Colorado University in Gunnison)
To Make a Wooden Horse
Ioannis Doukas, Ph.D. candidate, NUI Galway
Two late Greek epic poems, the Posthomerica by Quintus of Smyrna and the Fall of Troy by Triphiodorus, dated in the Imperial Period (3rd-4th centuries CE), treat events of the Trojan War which are subsequent to the content of the Iliad and whose earliest known narrative representations were the poems of epic cycle.
Included in both poems are versions of the Wooden Horse narrative and, specifically, passages which contain descriptions of its construction (QS 12.104-56 and Triph. 57-105). These texts, despite sharing subject-matter and core elements, such as the fact that Epeus is the architect who builds the horse with the assistance of Athene, differ considerably from one another as far as narrative order and depth of detail are concerned. For example, a dream scene initiates the process in Quintus (12.104-21), something of the sort missing from Triphiodorus’ account. On the other hand, the latter offers a highly detailed and vividly ekphrastic description of the construction, unlike the former’s confinement “to the bare essentials of the Horse’s physique” (Campbell 1981: 47).
Bearing in mind that the poems are presumably considered “not to compete with old epics that are still current but to fill a gap that their disappearance has created” (West 2013: 50), I will discuss the tradition regarding the Wooden Horse in its literary and material representations, focusing particularly on the surviving testimonies and fragments of those poems of the epic cycle (Little Iliad and Sack of Troy), which related the corresponding events. In doing so, I will attempt to reconstruct this tradition from Homer onwards and the elements it evolved to consist of. I will then proceed to analyse the passages in Quintus of Smyrna and Triphiodorus in terms of their reception of this tradition and of the originality they can be understood to contribute to it.
Campbell, M. A Commentary on Quintus Smyrnaeus Posthomerica XII. Leiden: Brill, 1981.
West, M. L. The Epic Cycle. A Commentary on the Lost Troy Epics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
From Troy to Colchis: The ‘Argonautic Cycle’ of Apollonius Rhodius
Manos Tsakiris, Ph.D. candidate, University of Edinburgh
This paper aims to demonstrate Apollonius’ profound engagement with the Trojan Cycle. In terms of content, certain elements place the Argonautica closer to the cyclic tradition than the Homeric epics: the use of magic and romance, the presence of characters and episodes originally appearing in poems of the Trojan Cycle. This paper argues that Apollonius draws inspiration from the Trojan Cycle in terms of structure, too. In the proem of Book 3, Apollonius echoes a passage thus far overlooked by scholarship: fr. 91 Wehrli of Aristoxenus, an alternative proem to the Iliad. This passage was composed by Hellenistic scholars who wished to standardise the edition of the poems of the Trojan Cycle, remedy discrepancies, and present the poems as fully compatible with each other. With this artificial proem at its beginning, the Iliad was thus presented as the natural continuation of the Cypria and not as a self-standing poem (Bethe 1929, Wehrli 1967).
This paper proposes that the similarities in diction and syntax of the proem of Book 3 with the above-mentioned passage not only evoke the Iliad and display Book 3 as a martial epic; they also evoke the interrelationship, even if artificial, of Cypria and Iliad. Imitating the structure of the Trojan Cycle, Apollonius presents his Books as adhering to the same rules – namely as separate, semi-independent poems, belonging to a broader poetic design. The thematic segregation of Books 1 and 2 (concerned with the Argonauts’ outward journey), Book 3 (with a predominantly martial content), and Book 4 (recounting the nostos of the Argonauts) corroborates the interpretation. Heavily influenced by the Trojan Cycle, Apollonius appears to be constructing his own ‘Argonautic Cycle’, a Hellenistic version of cyclic poetry.
The Reception of the Trojan Cycle in Greek Vase-Painting: The Case of Sosias’ Cup
Isabella Nova, Postdoctoral Researcher, Università Cattolica di Milano
The famous scene of Achilles healing the wounded Patroclus was depicted by Sosias on the tondo of the cup now in Berlin (Antikensamm. F2278, BA 200108) around 500 B.C. Since this representation involves two main epic heroes and this episode is not narrated in any literary source known to us, its meaning has been much debated among scholars.
In contrast to the symbolic interpretation of this painting, that considers it as a tragic allusion to the fatal doom awaiting Patroclus, when Achilles will not be able to save him (e.g. Lowenstam 2008, 64-65; Junker 2012, 9-10), this paper will take into account the different mythical traditions behind Sosias’ composition in order to convey significant insights into the reception of the epic cycle in the 5th century. Vase-painters, in fact, very rarely provide direct illustrations of epic episodes in a specific version, but, rather, they show to be acquainted with different variants.
Sosias, for instance, may have known about Achilles’ healing skills (derived from Cheiron’s teachings and recalled in Il. 11, 831-832) because the hero is portrayed as healer in the Telephos’ episode (Procl. Chrest. 132; Apollod. Epit. 3, 20). Moreover, the healing of a wounded friend was a common topic in heroic narrations (Brelich 20102, 117): a noteworthy parallel is offered by the healing of Diomedes by Sthenelos narrated in the Iliad (5, 95-113) and depicted on a Chalcidian amphora in a completely different context. Interestingly, then, Sosias stresses the age gap between the two heroes, by portraying Patroclus as bearded and thus older than Achilles. This point was quite debated in the 5th century, as attested by Plato (Symp. 179e-180b), who criticised Aeschylus for considering Achilles as the elder one. According to the Homeric tradition, instead, Achilles was younger (Il. 11, 786-787).
Sosias’ composition, as a whole, is undoubtedly effective in picturing the deep friendship between the two heroes (a theme that Aeschylus will celebrate in the Myrmidons some decades later): it appears, thus, to be perfectly coherent with the mythical tradition, even without any reference to a specific narrative.
Brelich, A. 20102. Gli eroi greci: un problema storico-religioso. Milano.
Burgess, J. 2001. The Tradition of the Trojan War in Homer and the Epic Cycle. Baltimore.
Grmek, M., and D. Gourevitch. 1998. Les Maladies dans l’art antique. Paris.
Junker, K. 2012. Interpreting the Images of Greek Myths: An Introduction. Cambridge.
Lowenstam, S. 1992. “The Uses of Vase Depiction in Homeric Studies.” TAPhA 122:165-198.
Lowenstam, S. 2008. As Witnessed by Images: the Trojan War Tradition in Greek and Etruscan Art. Baltimore.
Touchefeu, O. 1997. “Patroklos.” LIMC VIII Suppl. 948-952.
Akkamas at Synnada
Christos Aristopoulos, Ph.D. candidate, University of Cyprus
During the second century AD, a massive “renaissance” of Hellenicity took place, under the Antonines. Occasionally, this promotion of Greek culture reached levels of exaggeration that even led to fabrications of founding myths for cities that never were actually Greek. Such is the case of the Phrygian city of Synnada, which makes a claim of participating in the Hadrianic Panhellenion for reasons of being an Athenian colony from the epic hero Akkamas, son of Theseus. Akkamas himself, the eponymous hero of one of the ten Athenian tribes, does not appear in the Epic cycle. However, he is placed into the Trojan horse by a variety of later authors, including Vergil and Plutarch. What we have here is a case of different layers of reception. First, it is the reception by the Athenian Democracy of the epic tradition and the city’s need to be included directly into it. Then, it follows the narration of this political act by the authors and the mythmakers of the antiquity. Finally, it is the city of Synnada that appropriates the acts of this hero and incorporates him into her founding myth so that she can demonstrate a forged Greek ancestry. The hero will continue his presence at Synnada by later coins and even as a mention into Stephanus Byzantius “Ethnica”. Reception of the epic cycle seems that it does not have to be based only on what we know so far, but that there were also cases where the story was retold. We may never learn if Akkamas was indeed part of this narrative. What matters most and will be examined is the fact that he was used, on multiple occasions, in order to retell a city’s tale and thus to promote her political interests.
From Oral Tradition to Video Games: Epic Poetry in the Realm of Player-Led Digital Storytelling
Thanos Makris, ΜΑ King’s College London
This paper aims to demonstrate how a digital-born medium, the video game, can be used as an epistemological tool to study the oral tradition.
Video games, in contrast with other media, combine storytelling with play. For Galloway, “Games exist when enacted” (2006), and, as a result of player agency, gameplay becomes a non-hierarchical system of outcomes of multiple kinds and qualities. In such an agential medium, storytelling cannot conform to the norms of conventional media.
Drawing on Game Studies, Postmodern Philosophy, and Homeric Studies, I developed a video game in which the player assumes the role of the Homeric audience. By utilizing the affordances of the medium, I will try to convey the very essence of an orally transmitted story: its mutability. I will also demonstrate how play can be perceived as the performance that is taking place between the Homeric aoidos and the audience, and, lastly, discuss how randomized and procedural-generation algorithms allow for a reimagination of the stories in the Epic Cycle, in a non-hierarchical and non-linear fashion.
The Epic Cycle in Ismail Kadare’s Agamemnon’s Daughter and The Successor
Blaž Zabel, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
Albanian writer and essayist Ismail Kadare deals with the question of orality and with ancient mythology in many of his essays and novels. The file on H. (1981), which rewrites the story of Parry’s and Lord’s expedition to the Balkans, has been much discussed and interpreted in classics. This paper, however, focuses on two other works by Kadare, Agamemnon’s Daughter (2003) and The Successor (2003). Both novels were written in 1985 and were, after being smuggled out of Albania, published almost two decades later in France. Forming an interconnected narrative, most of the story in the novels focuses around the character called Suzana who is presented as a modern Iphigenia in the communist Albania. As I will argue, Kadare probably never studied Proclus or the ancient fragments, but he responded to the Trojan cycle, and Cypria specifically, as mediated through other receptions. In addition to his well-known interest in Aeschylus, this transmission history is indicated in the novel itself when the narrator discusses “Robert Graves’s book” and his interpretation of the “oldest sources” on Calchas at Aulis. This makes for an interesting example of Epic cycle’s reception, because Kadare’s understanding of how oral traditions operate encouraged him to reinterpret the myth in Cypria (which he knew from other sources) as a still-living oral tradition. This can be observed in several techniques used to describe the sacrifice of Iphigenia in terms quite similar to how classicists today understand the Epic cycle. For example, Kadare gives numerous and competing retellings of the story, constructs several alternative versions of the myth, and even “cites” epic fragments. Moreover, I will suggest that Kadare’s complex thematisation of orality and literacy encourages readers to interpret the Trojan myth as still defining modern reality, and I will place this reading in the context of other contemporary novelists who write about the ancient literary tradition.
Christos Chomenidis’ Use of Proclus’ Summaries in his Novel “Ο βασιλιάς της” [“Her King”]
Vasiliki Avramidi, Ph.D. candidate, Università di Bologna
ἐν τούτωι δὲ Ἀφροδίτη συνάγει τὴν Ἑλένην τῶι Ἀλεξάνδρωι. καὶ μετὰ τὴν μίξιν τὰ πλεῖστα κτήματα ἐνθέμενοι νυκτὸς ἀποπλέουσι. Proclus, Chrestomathia, Cypria
«Απ’ την ταράτσα τους είδα. Είδα το καραβάκι του Αλέξανδρου – με τον οποίο σχεδιάζαμε προ ωρών το κυνήγι της μεθεπομένης-, το είδα να αρματώνεται και να σαλπάρει» Christos Chomenidis, Ο βασιλιάς της
«Tradition», says T. S. Eliot, «cannot be inherited, and if you want it you must obtain it by great labour»: Christos Chomenidis seems to have been well prepared for the epic labour that he chose. In his recent novel, published less than a year ago (April 2020) by Patakis Publishing House, the author calls on the stage Menelaus, son of Atreus, who is finally given the chance to be the narrator of his own life and love story with the most beautiful woman of all, Helen. This paper aims to investigate the ways in which the well-known and established Greek writer uses Proclus’ summaries (in particular, the one of Cypria), and various epic techniques (such as in medias res) in order to reconstruct and propose a refreshed version of the myth. At the same time, this research will explore how Chomenidis succeeds in maintaining a continuous, direct, and vivid dialogue with the ancient sources, as shown in the extracts mentioned above. Whether the novel suggests a clinamen or a tessera, as Harold Bloom would have it, is yet to be discovered; one thing, however, is sure: the absence of a Cypria manuscript has decreased the «anxiety» of the contemporary author and has allowed him to unfold his «individual talent».
Reception of the Iliad and the Epic Cycle in Postcolonial Literature by João Guimarães Rosa: The Greek Hero in the Brazilian Backlands
Lorena Lopes da Costa, Professor at Federal University of Western Pará – Brazil
I argue that João Guimarães Rosa’s (1908-1967) readings and notes on the epic hero, with a particular emphasis on some of his features from the Iliad and others from the Epic Cycle, leave no doubt that he, one of the most important Brazilian authors, wishes to establish a dialogue between his heroes and ancient Greek literature. In my research I aim to investigate the kinds of dialogue it sparks.
In the year 1950, while living in France as a diplomat, Guimarães Rosa read and made some notes on the Iliad, of which there are many translations in his personal library. These notes establish clear connections between his own characters and the characters from Greek tradition. Besides these written records, these connections are deepened in his masterpiece The devil to pay in the backlands [Grande Sertão: Veredas in the originals], published in 1956. In short, not just in the notes but also in the novel, the author is concerned with what could be called the construction of the epic hero. He studies the features used to build the hero in the Trojan War in order to incorporate them into the war of his book, in which a conflict crossing generations develops the fame of its best warriors due to the dispute for land and power. However, the reception of the epic hero by Guimarães Rosa does not end with Homer. There would be another layer of Classical Reception, as, despite his source having been the Iliad, some of the hero’s features apprehended by the author are unHomeric features (Davies 1989). One of them is cowardice, highlighted by the treacherous murder of a fellow Greek by Diomedes and Odysseus, mentioned in the Cypria (12) and also in one of its fragments (27) by Pausanias in the Description of Greece. Also noteworthy regarding cowardice is the treatment given to the corpse of the enemy, which composes the Iliad but would be a second unHomeric feature. While in the Iliadic plot the improper treatment and the mutilation of the dead hero is more of a threat than a practice, in spite of Achilles’s behavior before Hector’s dead body, the Little Iliad (1, 2) presents them as less unusual.
My hypothesis is that, on the one hand, the reception of an ancient material by the Lusophone writer’s literature forges a new one, a historical-fictional tradition of war and violence; on the other hand, that event of reception demonstrates the potential held by classics to participate even in the so-called periphery of Western history in the Brazilian backlands. As shown by three recent Nobel prize winners (Seamus Heaney, Wole Soyinka, and Derek Walcott), the Brazilian writer uses the ancient material in his own context, to elaborate a transformed, postcolonial identity. He employs epic poetry to explore the Brazilian culture of the countryside, revealing the potential of epic poetry to decolonize the mind (Hardwick 2003).
Retracing Classical Motifs: Classical Reception of the Greek Epic Cycle in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion
Manolis Pagkalos, Lecturer in Ancient History, University of Groningen
Manolis Spanakis, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Philology, University of Crete
This paper investigates the influences of the Classical world in J.R.R. Tolkien’s work. It explores the deeper reasons for its success by illustrating and highlighting the similarities of mythmaking in The Silmarillion with the Archaic epic Cycle (Theogony, Titanomachy, the Cypria, the Genealogies with references to the Hesiodic corpus as well).
In particular, we discuss four central themes that demonstrate the connections between the epic Cycle and The Silmarillion. They reveal several structural and thematic parallels that are central to the worldbuilding and mythology as carriers of similar messages. We present them here, summarily. First, the role of sound (and song) or dancing as a manifestation of order and disorder, for example, the music of the Muses (under Zeus), the divine dancing (a description of the festive celebration under the guidance of Zeus following the victory over the Titans, PEG F 6), and the Ainur (under the guidance of Eru/Ilúvatar) against the disorder of noise and dissonance (Titans, Typhaon and Melkor) respectively. Second, the perpetual battle between the forces of benevolence and malevolence or good and evil – Zeus versus the Titans (in Titanomachies, such as the epic of Eumelos of Corinth); the Valar versus Melkor – that leads to everyday toil as presented in the Works and Days or the history of Arda until the War of the Ring (LotR). Third, the role of ‘love’ both as a concept and as a power of divine nature and origins. ‘Love’ (Eros for Hesiod, cf. Theog. 116-122) is a primeval power that pre-exists creation; in The Silmarillion, it is part of Eru/Ilúvatar and manifests itself in many other examples (Aulë and the Naugrim; Fëanor and the Silmarils; Beren and Lúthien). What is more, the meeting between Achilles and Helen is the most conspicuous outcrop of romanticism through the Cypria (on arg. 11b West); bringing them together for one brief encounter that could never be repeated was an expression of the same sentiment that in later centuries united them as lovers in the afterlife (Paus. 3.19.13 etc.). From ‘love’ also comes ‘jealousy’, which is another manifestation of the perennial question of order/good and disorder/evil. Finally, fourth is the construction of a continuous narrative that links creation (or time immemorial) to the ‘present’ through the succession of different ages – the Hesiodic Five Ages of Man and the wide range of heroes belonging to different mythical cycles, as they are described in the Genealogies of Kinaithon or Asios and to the Seven Ages of Arda (Letters #211, n.74).
To conclude, this paper returns to Tolkien’s words about the role of Classics in his education, through which he began to “invent(ing) ‘legends’ of the same ‘taste’” (Letters #180). Therefore, we argue for a stronger connection to Classical literature, by tracing and analysing similar motifs present in Hesiod and to further evidence the role of Classical tradition in the narrative structure of Tolkien’s work.
Bloom, H., ed. 2008. J.R.R. Tolkien: New Edition, Bloom’s Modern Critical Views. New York, NY: Bloom’s Literary Criticism.
Brockliss, W. 2017-2018. “Olympian Sound in the Theogony and the Catalogue of Women: Sweet Music and Disorderly Noise.” The Classical Journal 113(2):129-149.
Carpenter, H., ed. 2000. The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien. Boston, MA: Mariner Books.
do Canto, F. C., C. A. B. Guazzelli, and C. B. do Canto. 2018. “Eternidade, temporalidade e narratividade no livro de Gênesis, na Teogonia e em O Silmarillion: um ensaio comparativo” [“Eternity, Temporality and Narrativity in the Book of Genesis, in Theogony and in The Silmarillion: A Comparative Essay”]. Guavira Letras 26:277-286.
Fantuzzi, M., and C. – Tsagalis, eds. 2015. The Greek Epic Cycle and Its Ancient Reception. Cambridge.
Goslin, O. 2010. “Hesiod’s Typhonomachy and the Ordering of Sound.” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association (TAPA) 140(2):351-373.
Most, G. W. 1997. “Hesiod’s Myth of the Five (or Three or Four) Races.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 43:104-127.
Most, G. 2013. “Eros in Hesiod.” In Erôs in Ancient Greece, ed. E. Sanders, C. Thumiger, C. Carey, and N. Lowe, 163-174. Oxford University: Oxford University Press.
Nelson, S. 1997. “The Justice of Zeus in Hesiod’s Fable of the Hawk and the Nightingale.” The Classical Journal 92(3):235-247.
Tolkien, J. R. R. 2002. The Book of Lost Tales: Part One. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Tolkien, J. R. R. 2007. The Silmarillion. New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Tsagalis, C. 2017. Early Greek Epic Fragments I: Antiquarian and Genealogical Epic. DeGruyter
West, M. L. 2013. The Epic Cycle: Commentary on the Lost Troy Epics. Oxford.
Whittingham, E. A. 2007. The Evolution of Tolkien’s Mythology: A Study of the History of Middle-Earth. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company.
Achilles and the Epic Cycle in Early Modern Spanish Theatre
Yoandy Cabrera Ortega, Assistant Professor of Classics and Spanish, Rockford University, IL
In this presentation, I examine the way Achilles and the Trojan Cycle are represented in Early Modern Spanish Theater. I study El Aquiles (The Achilles) by Tirso de Molina, El monstruo de los jardines (The Monster of the Gardens) by Calderón de la Barca, and the four plays by Cristóbal de Monroy y Silva on the Trojan War: El caballero dama (The Lady Gentleman), Héctor y Aquiles (Hector and Achilles), La destrucción de Troya (The Destruction of Troy), and El rapto de Helena (The Abduction of Helen).
These authors and plays represent and explore episodes, scenes, and plots that are not in the Homeric poems. They are more connected to the Greek epic cycle, to its transmission through Roman culture, and the early modern mythological encyclopedias. It is possible to state that, during the early modern period and unlike what happens during the 20th century and today, Spanish authors were more interested in recreating and staging passages that we do not find in Homer. Some examples are the abduction of Helen, Achilles in Skyros, and the destruction of Ilion, among others. I analyze the different classical sources used by these authors and how they exploit the Greek epic cycle to found what we can call “Hispanic Greece”.
Men of Constant Comedy: The Comic Reception of the Odyssey(s) in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Loes Wolters, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands
In ‘Wit and irony in the Epic Cycle’, Konstan (2015) explains the humoristic element in a scene from the Ilias parva through a ‘reception product’. Aristophanes’ Knights line 1056a (‘even a woman could carry a burden’) refers to the quarreling Odysseus and Ajax; subsequently, the two great Greek heroes are reinterpreted as squabbling girls. This ‘deflationary treatment of epic heroism’ is considered characteristic of the Epic Cycle.* Moreover, its fast, episodic, and linear narratives (Burgess 2005) create opportunities for comic readings. Contrastingly, Homeric humor is deemed more controlled and modest, arguably because its narrative is closer to tragedy than to comedy.** Yet, Odysseus’ apologoi and Cretan lies defy this description. This paper argues that O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Coen Brothers, 2000), a reception product of the Odyssey, reveals the epic’s comic potential, based on characteristics it shares with the Epic Cycle.
First, I will discuss the Coen Brothers and their film (Adams 2015, Milberg 2013). Second, I will analyze the movie by focussing on content, form, setting, and narrator. After discussing the phenomenon of ‘capping’ (Collins 2004) and the film’s narrator/narratee levels (De Jong 2014), I will elaborate on the above mentioned features of the Epic Cycle. These findings will be compared to Odysseus’ apologoi and Cretan lies.
Analyzing the Odyssey from the film’s perspective demonstrates that even parts of the epic are screwball comedy, named after a baseball player’s fast and unpredictable curveball. Everett’s snappy wife, Penny, and her epic namesake beat their husband at his own verbal game. Like Odysseus, Everett entertains his internal and external audiences with an apologos, the country-song “Man of Constant Sorrow”. The ‘two odysseys’, then, function as each other’s explanatory frame. The Odyssey clarifies the film’s plot, while the film exposes the comic elements that the epic shares with the Epic Cycle.
* Konstan in Fantuzzi, M., and C. Tsagalis, eds. 2015. p. 174
** Cf. Aristotle 1448b24.
Tjaden Lotito, MFA Candidate, Western Colorado University in Gunnison
More than ever our contemporary culture is interested in and open to challenging representations of female characters in ancient literature. The myth of the Amazonian warrior Penthesilea should be no exception. The Greek epic poet, Quintus Smyrnaeus, immortalized her story in this Posthomerica. However, his story of Penthesilea betrays little interest in the character or experiences of Penthesilea herself, but, rather, it serves only to reinforce the heroic ethos—specifically, the masculine power of Achilles. Is it possible to disentangle her myth from that of Achilles? Give her a real life? Who was the Amazon warrior queen Penthesilea? Was she Thracian? Scythian? Sarmatian? What was her way of understanding the world? Her story only comes to us through the millennia in a fragmented, summarized, and male-mediated form. My original poem, Penthesilea, offers a new version of Penthesilea’s life outside of the Trojan War. It is a mythographic creation that focuses on the human woman as opposed to the male-authored fantasies of an idealized demi-goddess. Finally, Penthesilea, the poem, is an ode to pre-literate oral society and what it can tell us about what we have gained and what we have lost between its time and our own.