Classical Association Lecture: Homer and the art of cinematic warfare

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Monday 12th February | 6:00 pm

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Given by Dr George Gazis, Durham University.

In association with Northumberland & Durham Branch

In this paper, I argue that Homer’s often unrealistic descriptions of heroic duelling follow a long line of artistic representation, that can be traced back to the early Mycenaean Palatial period. Mycenaean artists, and their noble audiences who commissioned the artworks, had a particular preference for depicting individual duels when it came to battle-related themes, rather than large scale skirmishes. This preference cannot have been accidental; rather it appears to reflect the basic human tendency of prioritising individual or subjective memory, over a more objective recollection of the events in which one has participated.

My analysis moves away from the question of what Homer does recall and replay in our minds, and towards how and why does the recollection of events that comprise the epic material happen. In other words, I am not interested in the actual content of the narration or the social and cultural reasons behind its selection, but rather in what can the visualisation of these events in the bard’s (and the audience’s) mind’s eye tell us about Homeric poetry on a first level in relation to its audience and its expectations, and on a second, in terms of its artistic continuity with the Mycenaean era which it claims to depict.

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