Literature Essay Assignment

1. Your essay will be on “The Weight of Glory in Homer’s Iliad,” and your “Essay 1” question is:

What threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) — and therefore threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of the epic hero — in Homer’s Iliad?

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2. So we can all be on the same page, please first rely on our current readings and the following Nagy excerpt (https://chs.harvard.edu/CHS/article/display/5943.part-i-hour-1-the-homeric-iliad-and-the-glory-of-the-unseasonal-hero) in order to obtain adequate definitions of the following two words:

“hero” and “kleos”

3. Insofar as it should be a rule of thumb for you to assume that “all college essays should be an answer to a question,” please sub-title your paper with the following question:

What threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) — and consequently threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of the epic hero — in Homer’s Iliad?

(Therefore, your whole title section should look like this: “The Weight of Glory [title]: What threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) — and consequently threatens the fulfillment of the ideal of the epic hero — in Homer’s Iliad?” [subtitle] )

4. For this essay, your first paragraph should be your “thesis paragraph,” and your thesis paragraph should contain a simple “thesis answer” to your main essay question, which is your “title question.” Therefore your “thesis” (or “thesis answer”) should read, should communicate, something like this:

“In Homer’s Iliad, the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) — and consequently the fulfillment of the ideal of the epic hero — is threatened in various ways, ways which this essay will aim to show.”

5. Homer’s Iliad is fundamentally an epic-dramatic account of a certain moral and emotional tension, a nagging weight, in the story’s heroes (chiefly in Achilles, in Hector; but also it’s in other potential heroes, heroes who have not yet actualized their hero-ideal). In other words, it’s an emotional tension, a vague but definite feeling, that flows out of and back into the following moral tension which would have been felt by every living ancient Grecian citizen, namely the moral tension between:

(A) the feeling for the definite fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory), and which is associated with Homer’s concept of “courage”; and..

(B) the feeling for the possibility that (somehow) this ideal might never be fulfilled / actualized in potential heroes, and which is associated with Homer’s concept of “cowardice.”

6. Which is all to simply say that your essay is on the “ways in which the ideal of kléos áphthiton comes to be either threatened or fulfilled”; and the bulk of your paper is therefore your “Evidence Subsections” (I want at least 4 of them); these will simply show…

..the ways in which the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) — and consequently the fulfillment of the ideal of the epic hero — is either threatened or fulfilled…

7. What’s the most expedient way for you to find the passages in Homer’s Iliad which focus on this tensional feeling in Iliad?

Answer: either (A) word-search the primary text (Chicago Homer) for the words “glory” or “fame”; or (B) rely on the passages we have already looked at in our Nagy excerpts

8. Your “4 Evidence Subsections” should be a fusion of your explanatory words on Homer’s own words on the matter of the above outlined “tension” between (A) the fulfillment of the ideal of kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory), on the one hand, and (B) the eclipse or extinction of the ideal, on the other hand.

Much of what makes Homer’s art such an exemplary first-rate artform is that the feeling for this “tension” is never not there from page 1 until the end: that is, even if we cannot always “explicitly” see it, this tensional feeling is “implicitly” at the heart of Homer’s chief concern, his chief “telos” (his chief “aim” to fulfill, to actualize the ideal) throughout the unfolding of his narrative. In other words, Homer does not want the ideal only as a “potential” ideal — which is how Homer often wants us to feel it, on the verge of coming into being; he finally wants it rather to be “actualized,” made concrete in the world of his heroes and consequently he wants it made concrete in the world at large. What makes Homer’s art so exemplary and first-rate is that he, so to speak, keeps us on the razor’s edge between the fulfillment kléos áphthiton (imperishable glory) and its extinction.

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