Textbook Leftovers

Posts Tagged ‘non?fiction

So I just now looked at the table of contents and noticed that, unlike The Iliad, the entirety of The Odyssey is included in Norton. Therefore, I’m going to try to condense so we aren’t on this work for 3 months (there are 24 books!). So far, though, I must say, I am deeply enjoying this. No complaints at all. Homer is frequently hilarious, and offers a number of absolutely stunning descriptive passages. I commented about The Iliad that one can imagine how gorgeous it would have been to see the poet perform his work, and that holds true here as well.


Image on pottery, apparently depicting Telémakhos and Nestor

Book 2 sees Telémakhos call for an assembly of the Akhaians. Aigýptios, an old man mourning his son, calls the meeting to order. (Homer continues his pattern here of really making a connection to the background characters.) Telémakhos declares to the crowd that he is extremely displeased with this whole suitor business. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Four of the Iliad begins in a strange way. Two heroes, one from each side of the battle, meet in the no-man’s-land. They begin to taunt each other and it really begins to feel like a WWE match complete with ceiling-microphones. Each of the heroes ties his own heritage to legend, telling great tall tales about his forefathers. They end their verbal battle by acknowledging each other as friends and trading armor as a token of friendship (except one of them totally robs the other).

After that one-off scene, the Hero appears. Hector, Prince of Troy, enters the city. He asks his mother to beg Athena for mercy, and goes to find his brother Paris and tear him a new one. Read the rest of this entry »

Here we go with the Iliad! Norton includes selections from several of the books, with summaries of the omitted parts. Today, I’m dealing only with Book One.

It is fitting that the first word of this epic poem is Rage, because just about everyone in this part of the poem is mad as hell. I actually made an “Angry List” in my margins. The list of the pissed includes: Achilles, Agamemnon, the priest of Apollo, Apollo himself, Hera, and Zeus. And probably quite a few of the non-speaking roles, as well.

Now, if you don’t already know, the vast Acheaen (aka Greek) army, is currently waging war on Troy in retribution for the “kidnapping” of Helen (the wife of Menelaus, one of their kings). Read the rest of this entry »

At the beginning of Part 4 of Gilgamesh, our hero is still weeping for his friend. And a new fear has struck him – fear of his own mortality. “What my brother is now, that shall I be when I am dead. Because I am afraid of death, I will go as best I can to find Utnapishtim whom they call the Faraway, for he has entered the assembly of the gods.”

Gilgamesh embarks on an epic journey to find Utnapishtim, who is a sworn doppelganger for the biblical Noah. Gilgamesh fights a pride of lions, speaks with Scorpion-men, and traverses a pitch-black tunnel. He has now found the garden of the gods, a paradise of gemstone fruit and plants. One of the gods is here, and tells him to give up, for he “will never find the life for which [he is] searching.” Gilgamesh then finds and speaks to a nearby goddess. He tells her the story of his toils and of his deep sorrow and fear. She tells him again that he can never find immortality. Instead she counsels him to go out and live his life and enjoy it for all it is worth. I am interested to see that again a woman is the voice of reason and hope. Where the male god just said “give up,” the goddess offers wise advice and help. Read the rest of this entry »

Part 2 of Gilgamesh picks up without interlude after the fight and conciliation of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. One assumes that time has passed, because they seem to have developed a deep friendship. Gilgamesh has a dream and Enkidu interprets it. Gilgamesh’s dream enforces the gods’ desires for him to rule Uruk (mandate of heaven), but that he is not destined to acquire everlasting life. The phrasing in this translation seems to imply that maybe some people are given this destiny. Finally, Gilgamesh is encouraged to not abuse his power.

More time seems to pass, and Enkidu has a complaint. All play and no work has made him unhappy and weak. In answer to this, Gilgamesh decides that now is a good time to head to the Country of the Living, also called the Land of Cedars. My assumption is that this is a poetic name for Lebanon, well known in ancient times for their cedar forests.

Gilgamesh waxes eloquent about his ambitions to attack and destroy Humbaba, a gigantic creature who guards the Forest. Enkidu has misgivings (he’s terrified, actually), and Gilgamesh insists. Their frank discussion serves as an example of friendship – two men honestly offering viewpoints and discussing them. Gilgamesh eventually “wins” the discussion (although really it seems like Enkidu gives in). Read the rest of this entry »

If I’d been randomly choosing a place to begin an adventure through world literature, I could hardly have chosen a better outset than Gilgamesh.

Reaching all the way back to practically the dawn of civilization, the historical Gilgamesh was king of Uruk (in modern-day southern Iraq, on the Euphrates) in about 2700 BC. That’s about 5000 years ago. The epic narrative of his exploits was in development for thousands of years in the oral tradition, and was luckily recorded on clay tablets before the entire thing was lost to the sands of time. It remained lost until around 1870 AD when it was accidentally rediscovered by archaeologists.

Due to the length of this narrative, I’ll be dealing with it in segments. Today, we confront the Prologue and Part One.

The narrative begins with praise to what seems to be a bad king (I hesitate to call him evil, but he’s painted in pretty harsh colors). His people call out to the gods in their oppression, and the gods confer amongst themselves. They decide that man is not meant to be alone, and they create a soulmate for him: “…now create his equal; let it be as like him as his own reflection, his second self, stormy heart for stormy heart. Let them contend together and leave Uruk in quiet.” Read the rest of this entry »