Tuesday, April 5, 2011

[Thesis abstract] A Lyricist Responds to the Iliad

[Here is the 330-word abstract of why I only made one post during all of March.]

Art refers back to other art, and literature is no exception. The Iliad belongs to the body of literature that has deeply shaped English writing. A knowledge of this poem and the mythology that accompanies it enriches a reader's experience of a much greater body of literature, from the Roman masterpiece the Aeneid, to Dante's revolutionary Inferno, to modern books such as James Joyce's Ulysses. Moreover, deep engagement with this poem, as with any great piece of literature, enriches a person's life by bringing a consciousness of its lasting themes into quotidian existence.

For this project, I lived with the Iliad. In reading, I first inhabited the Iliad as poetry and story and human experience, then tried to capture my emotional and intellectual reactions as lyric poems. Some aspects of this experience were familiar and easy to accept as relevant to who I am and what I believe. Other Homeric attitudes, though, are diametrically opposed to my beliefs; dwelling within those perspectives during my reading was emotionally challenging. The mix of intuitive familiarity and utter foreignness of the Iliad was fertile ground for reflection. The fruit of this meditation was a body of close to a hundred lyric poems that respond to the Iliad.

These poems first reflect my deeply held beliefs about the subjects treated in the epic, then proceed to explore my own emotional experiences from outside my reading of the Iliad. The Iliad is a war poem, taking place within a polytheistic spiritual/religious framework. Its characters belong to a patriarchal society whose culture relies heavily upon the externalization of emotion and identity, defining a man by his reputation among his peers (and defining a woman by her value to the surrounding men). My reactions to these characteristics of the Iliad fed the themes of my responsive poems. This paper discusses my poems and their relation to the epic, approaching my experience of reading the Iliad from an analytic rather than poetic perspective.

[I now have an extremely rough but relatively coherent 23-page paper as well as 75 pages of ordered and clustered poems. Huzzah! There is a lot left to do but this feels like a major accomplishment as is.]


Anonymous said...

Huzzah indeed my sister! So proud/happy of/for you!

jfille said...

Thank you!