We are pleased to announce that Anuv Ratan (Harvard University, ’14) is the winner of the 2012 Heroes Essay Contest for his paper titled “Anger in the Iliad : Mēnis, Kholos, and Social Order.”
Anuv’s work was chosen from among many beautiful essays written for Gregory Nagy’s Concepts of the Hero in Greek Civilization course, which is currently being offered through Harvard and Harvard Extension. The winner was chosen by Nagy and the Teaching Fellows who assist with the course. The TF for Anuv’s section is Caley Smith. Below is a brief interview with Anuv.
CHS: Tell us a bit about yourself. What year are you? What is your major? And what drew you to this course?
I am a Junior studying Computer Science and Neurobiology. Clearly, my major is quite removed from classical literature; however, I have always been interested in Greek mythology and I took this class to indulge in that interest of mine.
CHS: Is this the first time you’ve read the Iliad and the Odyssey? What has that experience be like?
This was the first time I read the Iliad and Odyssey academically. Prof. Nagy’s guidance has been absolutely phenomenal in highlighting the nuances of these epics. Guided close readings have exposed me to such a beautiful subtext; I’ve developed a deep appreciation not only for Homer but also for the culture that surrounded his tales.
CHS: The title of your award-winning essay is “Anger in the Iliad: Mēnis, Kholos, and Social Order.” Why did you choose that topic? What did you argue?
I chose this topic almost exclusively based on the guidance of my TF, Caley Smith. His interest in and excitement about linguistics has been very inspiring and contagious.
I find it intensely interesting that words, as encapsulations of emotion, are lenses into a culture. In my paper, I argued that the existence of multiple words for “anger” in Homeric epic speaks to a larger underlying cultural trend in Homer’s Greece. Namely, the distinction between mēnis and kholos is a reflection of how the preservation of social order was perceived.
CHS: How has this class surprised you? What concepts and skills will prove most useful to you going forward?
I found it pleasantly surprising that this class has changed the way I think and write. Frankly, when I first signed up to take this class, I did not expect to learn anything applicable or practical – I simply wanted to learn about ancient Greece. However, the focus on close-readings, the guidance of my TF, and the nature of Classical Studies have all taught me an incredible amount. I have learned that the gathering of concrete evidence to support a thesis is not unique to the sciences. I have learned that historic texts can be used to learn so much about human society in the status quo. I came to Harvard expecting a liberal arts education; this class really exceeded that expectation of mine.
CHS: What would you like to do after graduation?
I am not sure yet. I am very interested in thinking about how businesses operate strategically. I’m also fascinated by the startup and entrepreneurship space. I’d like to combine those interests in my professional career.
For more on the concept of anger in the Iliad, be sure to read “Homeric Anger Revisited,” by Leonard Muellner and Muellner’s The Anger of Achilles: Mēnis in Greek Epic, available now through Cornell University Press and coming soon to Online Publications at chs.harvard.edu. Also see Fighting Words and Feuding Words: Anger in the Homeric Poems by Thomas R. Walsh.