Michael Silk’s New Things about the Iliad

Iliad

Reading Michael Silk’s interpretation and critical analysis about Homer’s epic Iliad, I find that some points he actually emphasizes deserve to be given a considerable time to ponder on.  He starts his discussion about the epic by giving us the feel of the milieu of the ancient times, from which he first raises a significant observation that Homer is not made of a singular entity, but Homer is presented as a ‘multiple author’ with ‘different voices’.  One of the characteristics of an epic includes the fact that it came from oral tradition, and so Silk emphasizes in his analysis that because of this the oral transmission must have changed overtime, and when it was finally written down there might have been some changes. The oral-improvisory technique is possible for these alterations.

Another relevant remark that Silk lays out is the fact that Iliad is not a tight, organic structure in Aristotelian terms, or organically whole like Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex.  The actions do not follow a causal logic, but the epic is organized into a circular structure referred as ‘ringform’ – “it begins with a ransom and argument and ends with a comparable sequence in reverse” (the A-B-A shape).  It’s a full circle, sort of.  Also, there are sections in the narrative where there’s a tendency towards autonomy, that defiled the Aristotelian concept of ‘organic whole.’

The epic poem also embraces the structural technique which the critic calls as ‘illusionist’, where readers are given a kind of illusion of the length of time.  With regards to style, the poem employs extended simile, but the use of metaphor, according to Silk, is largely absent in the Iliad.

In terms of themes and heroic ideology, the character Achilles is presented as the embodiment of the ‘poet’s theme’, the warrior who fights for glory.  In a section that discusses about the character Achilles, Silk highlights that Achilles is the only character that can be considered as a ‘round’ character (with depth) in a modern sense.  Other characters are only defined through stock epithets and were differentiated in their own capabilities, but generally not considered as ‘men with multiplicity of traits and interest’, and therefore considered as static.  These characters show no capacity for development and are not affected by any subsequent experience. They are contrasted with the character of Achilles, which becomes the focus of interest in the poem mainly because even though there have been times when divine interventions affect him, there are also times when he had the chance to reveal himself – his true qualities without the external pressures (like war and divine intervention).

Silk observes that for all the battle scenes, heroic deaths and defeat, the epic poem’s emotional flavors are restrained due to the author’s style.  Homer wrote objectively, and so in terms of emotions, the readers may feel distant.  Homer’s characters does not expressed their feelings explicitly but conveys them either through the observations of other people or through detailed descriptions in things.  The latter can be associated with Eliot’s objective-correlative technique, which is a modern day concept.

Lastly, the critic states that the epic is primarily celebratory, not exploratory.  It presents to us the experience of certain types of people, and lacks the in-depth emotional exploration (with exception to Achilles) of some characters.  Silk likens reading the Iliad as watching sports, him (and the readers) as an spectator.

To further explore more about the Iliad, read Michael Silk, on The Iliad.

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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (The Movie!)

Along with my favorite Harry Potter series, I also like the Narnia series of C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. I already completed the whole series, which, like the Potter series, has seven installments. My personal favorite book in the Narnia series is The Horse and His Boy, but I can’t deny that I also like Prince Caspian book.

I’m so happy because following the first Narnia film from Walt Disney and Walden Media, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, Prince Caspian movie adaptation will be premiering this June 4 in the theaters. This is very good news for the fans of the Narnia series.

I first read the series when I was in high school, and finally completed them when I just started my first year college. I admit that it was really hard to be involved in the story readily (unlike Harry Potter) but later on, as you pursue reading the other books, you’ll find that you just can’t help but love the Pevensie children and their adventures. But the exciting thing about this is that there is something deeper in the whole Narnia series, and I noticed that when I finally read the last book. C.S. Lewis is really good and very subtle in injecting his ideas in the children’s books. If I’m going to look deeper through the character of Aslan, then it feels like he is like God. To critically analyze this, is a very good idea. Ha-ha! The rest of this exciting mind work will be your quest. 😉

The movie was directed by Andrew Adamson.