Homer's Divine Audience: The Iliad's Reception on Mount Olympus

ISBN : 9780198842354

Tobias Myers
256 Pages
138 x 216 mm
Pub date
Jun 2019
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The gods of Homer's Iliad have troubled readers for millennia, with many features of their presentation seeming to defy satisfactory explanation. Homer's Divine Audience presents and explores a new 'metaperformative' approach to scenes of divine viewing, counsel, and intervention in the Iliad, referencing the oral nature of the poem's original composition and transmission to cast the Olympian gods in part as an internal audience, who follow the action from their privileged, divine perspective much like the poet's own listeners.

Although critics have already often described the gods' activities in terms of attendance at a 'show' and have suggested analogies to theatre and sports, little has yet been done to investigate the particular strategies by which the poet conveys the impression of gods attending a live, staged event. This volume's analysis of those strategies points to a 'metaperformative' significance to the motif of divine viewing: the poet is using the gods, in part, to model and thereby manipulate the ongoing dynamics of performance and live reception. The gods, like the external audience, are capable of a variety of emotional responses to events at Troy; notably pleasure and pity, but also great aloofness. By performing the speeches of the provocative, infuriating, yet ultimately obliging Zeus, the poet at key moments both challenges his listeners to take a stake in the continuation of the performance, and presents a sophisticated critique of possible responses to his poem. The result is a conception of epic not only as song that will transcend time through re-performance - as famously evinced in the Iliad's meditations on kleos - but also as raw spectacle, in which audience 'participation' and complicity both magnify and complicate the emotional impact of the devastation at Troy.


List of Figures
0 Introduction: 'With What Eyes...?'
0.1 Divine Perspectives
0.2 The 'Divine Audience'
0.3 Homer's Audience'
1 Zeus, the Poet and Vision
1.1 The Proem's Promise
1.1.a The Poet and Audience Involvement
1.1.b Dios d'eteleieto boul?
1.2 Realizing the Proem's Promise: An Illustrative Example from Book 16
1.3 The Gods and Metapoetics
2 The Duel and the Dais: Iliadic Warfare as Spectacle
2.1 Defining the Gods' Role as Audience
2.1.a Divine Viewing Linked to Battle and Corpses (Book 1)
2.1.b Staging the Spectacle of War (Book 2)
2.1.c The Duel as a Paradigm of Military Spectacle (Book 3)
2.1.d The Significance of Duel and Dais for the Gods' Viewing Role (Book 4)
2.2 Implications for Homer's Audience
2.2.a Textual Cues Pointing to a Mise en Abyme
2.2.b The Effect of the Mise en Abyme
2.2.c Homer's Audience as Viewers of the Warfare
3 'Let Us Cease': Early Reflections on the Spectacle's End
3.1 The Divine Audience and the Duel between Hector and Aias
3.1.a Textual Cues Suggesting a Mise en Abyme
3.1.b Athena and Apollo Dramatise Tensions in Audience Response
3.1.c A New Narrative About the Warfare
3.2 The Achaean Wall and the End of the Iliad
4 'Many Contests of the Trojans and Achaeans': The Iliad's Battle Books
4.1 Staging the Iliad's Battle Books
4.1.a Staging Day 2: Continued Use of the Duel as a Paradigm
4.1.b Staging Day 3: A Hint of Funerary Spectacle
4.1.c Staging Day 4: Variations on the Duel Paradigm with Funerary Spectacle
4.2 Audience Involvement and Response
4.2.a Audience 'Involvement' in the Warfare Itself
4.2.b Audience Response to the Staging and Direction of the Warfare
4.3 Zeus' Gaze and the Contests as Funeral Rites
4.4 A Metaperformative Reading of the Theomachia
5 'A Man Having Died': Watching Achilles and Hector
5.1 A Hybrid Spectacle
5.2 Textual Cues Pointing to a Mise en Abyme
5.3 The Divine Gaze and the Imperfect Moment
6 Conclusion: The Iliad and the Odyssey
Appendix: Explicit Statements of Divine Viewing

About the author: 

Tobias Myers is Assistant Professor of Classics at Connecticut College and holds degrees from the University of Colorado at Boulder and Columbia University. His research focuses primarily on Homer, with additional interests in Greco-Roman literature more broadly, magic and religion, and the history of ideas. Among other topics, he has written on addresses in Theocritus' bucolica, the 'literary cosmology' of Theocritus 2, and the spatio-temporal paradoxes of Iliadic battle scenes. His current projects include a study of Odyssean conceptions of self-knowledge and an attempt to situate Homeric conceptions of time within the larger history of the idea of eternity in the Western tradition.

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