The time is long gone when literary men were happy to treat literature, and tragic poetry in particular, as something which exists serenely outside time, high up in the empyrean of unchanging validity and absolute values. Nowadays it is conventional, and seems natural, to insist that literature is produced within a particular society and a particular social setting: even its most gorgeous blooms have their roots in the soil of history. Its understanding requires us to understand the society which appreciated (...) it, and for which it came into existence. In the particular case of the tragic poetry of Athens, the most influential body of recent criticism focuses on the relation of the drama to the realities of political and social life. (shrink)
One of the most striking differences between ancient and modern writings on Homer is the prominence in the former, and the rarity in the latter, of discussions of pathos. The word barely appears in the most characteristic books of our time on the subject. Thus the inquirer will find in Wace and Stubbings's Companion to Homer an index hospitable enough to include ‘Babylonian cuneiform’, and ‘Kum-Tepe, neolithic-site at’, and ‘Pig-keeping, in Homer’; but for ‘pathos’ he will look in vain.
One of the most striking features of the Iliad is that the gods are constantly present as an audience. Not only are they shown intervening and responding to human action, but repeatedly they are explicitly said to be watching. It will here be argued that this is much more than a ‘divine apparatus’, that it stands in a peculiar and identifiable relation to real religion, and that it is of the greatest importance both for the Iliad and for later Greek (...) poetry. (shrink)