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Daniel Turkeltaub's article, Reading the Epic Past: The Iliad on Heroic Epic, has just appeared

Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

Daniel Turkeltaub’s article, “Reading the Epic Past: The Iliad on Heroic Epic,” has just appeared.

Professor Turkeltaub’s latest work appears in a new collection of essays entitled Allusion, Authority, and Truth: Critical Perspectives on Greek Poetic and Rhetorical Praxis, edited by Phillip Mitsis and Christo Tsagalis (Berlin/New York, 2010).

For details on the publication, check out the following:



In this article, Daniel Turkeltaub challenges the standard notion that the Iliad is an uncritical, orthodox representative of traditional heroic epic poetry through an analysis of how the Iliad engages in a metapoetic and self-reflexive critique that subverts traditional epic pretensions to ethical authority.  Iliadic heroes learn proper heroic behavior from stories about their heroic fathers and forefathers.  By presenting these stories as inherited from its own epic tradition, the Iliad transforms its heroes into “readers” of its own epic tradition as they seek to understand and aspire to equal their fathers’ legacies.  As they do so, Iliadic heroes demonstrate for their own audiences approaches to understanding epic, including the Iliad itself.  Two test cases, Diomedes “reading” his father’s epic legacy in books four through eight and the competing visions of the past given by Nestor and Priam, demonstrate that while the Iliad maintains a traditional narrative voice extolling the heroic virtues and inherited ethical code of its heroes, the poet arranges his events and language so as to reveal that emulating epic values and behaviors is at best ineffective and at worst dangerously counter-productive.  Epic justifies itself through seducing its audience into considering its heroes to be viable exemplars of noble behavior, but because the production of epic necessarily entails aggrandizing and censoring historical events, the audience must always remember that epic heroes are fictional and that their actions are inimitable in the real world.

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