Tag Archives: Iliad

With God(s) on Our Side

The Council of Gods by Raphael (1517)
“The Council of Gods” by Raphael (1517)

For most first-time readers of the Iliad, especially traditional college-age undergraduates, Homer’s epic poem is a sudden plunge into strangeness. To immerse oneself in the competitive violence at the heart of Ancient Greek honor culture; in the repetitive, gruesome descriptions of battle-field deaths; or in the appalling practice of taking wartime concubines (the trophy-like status of Briseis alone in the opening dispute between Agamemnon and Achilles tends to bring out the sober moralism in even my most apathetic students). To immerse oneself in all of this is to be given a crash-course in the notion that the past is not just a foreign country, but a brutal one, too. Continue reading With God(s) on Our Side

See the Poem, Be the Poet, See the Poem Again

This is the first post of a two-part essay on the pedagogy of poetic imitation.

As the Lead Professor for Concordia University Irvine’s Core English 201: World Literature to the Renaissance, I try to vary the papers I assign each semester, both as a way of discouraging cheating and as a means of staying sane. About three years ago, I came upon a new idea—new for me, that is—that would allow the students to be more creative while helping them understand that most basic block of good poetry, and of writing in general: diction.

Students often take for granted the existence of works of art, as if the poets or painters behind them were not real humans who struggled to compose their pieces or who made difficult choices along the way. Continue reading See the Poem, Be the Poet, See the Poem Again