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By rapping The Iliad, USC classics professor makes ancient literature relevant again
Brandon Bourgeois believes that, by translating the entirety of Homer’s The Iliad into rap lyrics, he can help students better appreciate the classic poem.
Bourgeois arrived this summer at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences as a freshly minted assistant professor of classics. His primary area of research focuses on Roman political tradition.
Bourgeois acknowledges that the classics have long been considered the domain of white scholars. The glory of Greece and Rome have even been invoked by white supremacists to allege their superiority. But he notes that the classics have also been used as a tool for emancipation. Frederick Douglass was inspired and informed by a primer on classical oratory that he spirited from the room of his owner’s son. Enslaved Africans across America in the 18th century absorbed the classics to promote insurgency. Bourgeois added that Black Panther Party co-founder Huey Newton reportedly taught himself to read by reading Plato’s The Republic; Newton’s autobiography, Revolutionary Suicide, is actually modeled on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.
Hype 4 Homer: https://soundcloud.com/hype4homer
Los  Angeles  Homer  Illiad  Hip  Hop  Music  Classical  Greece 
27 days ago by dbourn
The Idiod
Stephen Colbert: “In the end Trump may be defeated by his greatest weakness — his Achilles mouth. It's all detailed in the epic poem The Idiod. It’s The Idiod and The Oddity.”
4 weeks ago by M.Leddy
Andrew Feldherr faculty profile at Princeton
Gave presentation on the Odyssey at Princeton Reunions '25 in 2010
Princeton  Homer  Literature  Greece 
5 weeks ago by dbourn
Puzzled about nepenthe
How did nepenthe make its way into today’s Sunday Puzzle? My guess is that Will Shortz has many lists of words, searchable in many ways, and thus found this word.
Homer  Odyssey  words 
july 2019 by M.Leddy
Michael Naas, Turning: From Persuasion to Philosophy: A Reading of Homer's Iliad. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1995. Pp. x + 298. $55.00.
Reviewed by Michael Lynn-George, University of Alberta, michael.lynn-george@ualberta.ca.

Within the brief compass of a single sentence, Eduard Zeller once mapped the extremities of the axis around which a long tradition of thought revolves: "Homer and philosophy -- these are the two poles between which the world of Greek thought rotates" (25). Zeller observes that Homeric poetry and Greek philosophy emerge from the same site, "the other side of the Aegean Sea." But in relation to each other, the two remain widely distant and are purposefully set at opposite poles. By long-established tradition we take our bearings from this polarization: it ensures us safe passage and sure trajectory as we trace our courses within and across the space of the irreducible distance between these two fixed points of the turning world. And yet there are times when this movement is temporarily arrested by the possibility of a different reading of the structure of this world, its assumed axes and axioms. Zeller concludes with the observation that "we should not overlook the fact that [the Homeric poems] contain much reflection on the world and life." Indeed, "the notes thus struck" in Homeric pondering upon the turnings of the world "continue to sound." One may detect "beneath the surface of the heroic poetry and its myths" the Logos that "begins to stir" (26).

Similarly, Hermann Fraenkel, in Early Greek Poetry and Philosophy, heralds the rising within the history of thought of "the daystar of pure philosophy" (252). Post-Homeric "pure philosophy" ("divorced from all extraneous associations") "came into existence suddenly and without visible cause" -- "as if by a miracle." "Reine Philosophie," springing up "from the soil of a borderland" ("auf dem Boden eines Grenzlandes"), marked "a clean break with the past" (255). The break, boundaries and limits establish the purity of a totally new realm of thought. But the very term "pure philosophy" is carefully chosen to distinguish this thought from thought "still attached to the framework of the traditional religion and mythology." In an apologetic note within his treatment of Homeric epic, Fraenkel feels the need to qualify some of his more philosophical remarks: "The old heroic epic takes a basically unphilosophic stance; these things are taken unquestionably as they presented themselves for epic treatment. But this does not prevent philosophic premises, conscious or unconscious, from being formed already. Philosophy keeps breaking in." (60 n. 18). Philosophy keeps "breaking in" as if totally from without, and yet "formed already" from within. With Hesiod, there comes another qualifying note: "although the epic deals in myth, it can find room for what amounts to speculations on basic questions of metaphysics, and that it is not correct to make Greek philosophy begin simply with Thales and Anaximander" (108 n. 30).

Within this long tradition, Vico would go so far as to proclaim that his examination of the epic showed "the complete absence of philosophy in Homer" (276). But in this century the significant work of Cornford with regard to the origins of philosophy (which is so often stated to begin with itself) did much to reshape the armature of our conceptions of Greek thought. It is important to bear in mind that much of the discussion of where philosophy commences always already assumes a certain conception of what constitutes philosophy. (In Aristotle's history of philosophy in the Metaphysics, he speaks of Thales as the founder TH=S TOIAU/THS FILOSOFI/AS and considers how the principle of water relates to the poetic thought of Homer, 983b20-984a5. The comment reminds us of the heterogeneity of "philosophy.") One might, without too much controversy, adopt, for example, Gernet's rather broad definition in his piece on "The Origins of Greek Philosophy," which concluded: "First of all, Greek philosophy is the beginning of what we call philosophy as such, or to put it another way, it is the basis of the intellectual activity whereby man, through reason and reflection, attempts to define the meaning of the world and his place in it" (352). A wider appreciation of these aspects of Greek thought might produce a shift which would re-open for consideration some of our fixed preconceptions concerning the nature of Homeric thought. The longstanding distinction between mythos and logos has been effectively challenged, with the result that we might now consider more closely a reminder such as Castoriadis provides for us: "Man is an unconsciously philosophical animal, who has posed the questions of philosophy in actual fact long before philosophy existed as explicit reflection; and he is a poetic animal, who has provided answers to these questions in the imaginary" (147; it needs to be noted that Castoriadis's work redefines what we are to understand as "the imaginary"). Once the fixed, distant poles of poetry and philosophy have been unsettled and begin to drift across the boundaries designed to contain them in their purity, we might give some reconsideration to, and reassess, a number of our dominant presuppositions as we continually renew our approaches to the great Homeric epic poetry.

Michael Naas's book, Turning: From Persuasion to Philosophy, broaches some of these significant questions. In proposing to treat the important subject of persuasion (described as "one of the most elusive and, yet, significant "concepts" or "activities" in classical Greek literature and philosophy"), Naas conducts his own argument with philosophy and its conception of persuasion and philosophy. But there is something troubling in this treatment, and not merely in the aim to disturb more conventional positions. One might note at the outset the hesitation over the term "concept" in the description quoted above ("one of the most significant 'concepts' or 'activities'"), a small index of a far-reaching problem throughout the book. The author states in outlining the major aims of his study, "The point of the work is to show that the movement from persuasion to philosophy can be found in those texts that we assume to precede philosophy" (16). And yet the whole book is haunted by the very question that Naas himself poses, "How, then, do we decide where persuasion ends and philosophy begins?" (208). Or, indeed, where philosophy begins and ends.

The book also promises A Reading of Homer's Iliad, and includes special consideration of books 9 and 24. But it should also be observed that within the scope of Naas's fundamental disagreement with "philosophy" (conceived somewhat monolithically), his decision to treat the Iliad in particular was a strategic choice. In order to achieve his aim, "to disrupt the opposition between persuasion and philosophy," he could, as he remarks, have treated the Platonic texts, cataloguing all Platonic metaphors and similes "in order to show just how much philosophy depends upon its other to be itself" (8). But instead Naas chooses to analyze the Homeric Iliad as a specifically pre-Platonic text. He declares that the Iliad contains the "beginnings of philosophy." The greater part of his analysis, however, moves in a very different direction. The Homeric epic is prized for its pre-philosophical and non-philosophical status. Homeric poetry was, it is argued, created before the concept and prior to conceptualization as such: "In Homer, persuasion precedes the very idea or concept of persuasion" (13). In a work which owes a great deal to the unpublished dissertation of G. M. Pepe ("Studies in Peitho," 1966), Naas devotes considerable effort to reworking and arguing against his predecessor. Pepe had commented, "The absence of the substantive PEIQW/ has been taken as proof that there is no abstract notion of persuasion in the poems." (He compares this argumentum e silentio to the attempt to "establish Homer's illiteracy by the lack of any explicit references in the poems to the art of writing," 11). This issue is central to Naas's thesis and he responds, "Pepe concludes that while the substantive peitho is not to be found in Homer, the concept of it is at work. In principle, the absence of a substantive does not entail the absence of a concept, but in Homer there is no real evidence of a developed concept of persuasion at work, and so the absence of a substantive can be seen as further evidence of a persuasion before the concept" (205). In many respects, Naas's account of Homer recalls (and explicitly cites) the older Hegelian tradition in Homeric studies, most notably the work of Snell. For Hegel, philosophy is distinguished above all by the formation of the Concept ["der Begriff"] traced within the course of its development towards the Absolute. (In relation to the general question raised in the opening to this review, one might note the number of beginnings for "proper philosophy" in Hegel's History of Philosophy.) In striving to follow Derrida's critique of the concept of concept, Naas locates, as he sees it, an early text which is aconceptual.

In this account the aphilosophical receives a different evaluation from that which is customary (and is assumed even among the scholars he cites and whose views and evalutions he generally shares -- for example, Snell). Here the "primitive" or "naive" is good and desirable; it is innocent of philosophical conception and thereby eludes the very conceptions that philosophy would attempt to impose upon it. "In Homer, persuasion is not yet a fully articulated concept but an ambivalent third term that can never be fully mastered or defined" (9). On the other hand, persuasion is given a "pure and proper" definition in Naas's treatment of the epic. Without consideration of the Iliad, "it would be too easy to forget that before persuasion was ever turned into a concept by philosophy indeed, before it ever appeared or was represented in ancient Greek literature and thought, it was, in Homer, just … [more]
classics  iliad  homer 
may 2019 by auerbach

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