- Introduction:Homer; Analysis and Influence
After 2700 years on the best seller list, Homer's Iliad and Odyssey in English translation are still required reading in most college/university basic world literature courses, judging from their inclusion in most introductory world literature texts (The Norton Anthology, The Longman Anthology, The Bedford Anthology). Interest in Homer in the 21st century seems to be stronger than ever. The most recent of the over two dozen translations of Homer's Iliad and/or Odyssey in the last 50 years has just been published (The Iliad, trans. Herbert Jordan, University of Oklahoma Press). Since 1990 there have been eight new English translations of the Odyssey and six of the Iliad (see Bibliography, II. English Translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey). New critical studies on Homer since 2000 seem to be on the rise (see Bibliography, I. A Selected List of Critical Works on Homer's Epics Since 2000). A renewed interest by historians and critics questioning the authenticity of the Trojan War and Troy has generated a number of new books (Bryce, 2006, Burgess 2001, Castledon 2006, Latacz 2001, Lowenstam 2008, Strauss 2006, thomas and Conant 2005, and Thompson 2004), which have appeared in the last few years (see Bibliography, I. A Selected List of Critical Works on Homer's Epics Since 2000). Even the graphic novel has appropriated Homer in the projected seven volume series of Eric Shanower, of which three volumes (27 installments; see Works Cited) have already been published.
In her recent book, The Return of Ulysses; A Cultural History of Homer's Odyssey (2008), Edith Hall revisits the influences of Homer's epic on Western culture first approached by W. B. Stanford in his classic The Ulysses Theme (1954) and finds that Homer's influence has pervaded all phases of contemporary culture. This is especially evident in film. Of the several versions of Homer's epics brought to the screen since the silent era (see Hanna R. Roisman's essay in this collection), almost half have been produced in the late 20th and early 21st centuries (Troy, 2004, Helen of Troy (TV mini series), 2003, The Odyssey (TV mini series), 1997, Helen of Troy, 1955, Ulysses, 1954). In addition to the film adaptations of the Iliad and Odyssey mentioned above, critics have also turned to both classic and contemporary world cinema for Homeric influences, especially in the AmericanWestern film (see for example Blundell and Ormand , Eckstein and Lehman , Myrsiades , and Winkler [1985, 1996]). Works of fiction and non fiction influenced by both of Homer's epics have also been at a record high (see [End Page xi] Bibliography, III. A Selected List of Works of Fiction Since 2000 Influenced by Homer's Epics).
In order to focus on this resurgence of Homeric interest in popular culture, College Literature several years ago invited a number of scholars to contribute articles for possible inclusion in a special issue on "Reading Homer in the 21st Century" (34.2 Spring, 2007). The response and quality of the manuscripts received were of such high quality that one issue was not enough for the essays accepted for publication. Thus only a year later after our first special issue on Homer, we are happy to offer our second installment on the analysis and influence of the Iliad, and Odyssey.
The first four of the eight essays in this present collection analyze episodes from the two Homeric epics. The first essay by Rick M. Newton, "Assembly and Hospitality in the Cyclopeia" focuses on Odysseus' account of his adventure with the Cyclops in Odyssey 9 through which Professor Newton argues how that adventure illustrates two important type scenes found in the Odyssey—those of violated hospitality and the Homeric assembly. Pauline Nugent in "The Sounds of Sirens; Odyssey 12.184-91" continues with an analysis of the Odyssey focusing on Odysseus' adventure with the Sirens in Odyssey 12 and the appeal of their song "to transcend the earthly and lift the human spirit to a higher plane." NathanielWallace in, "Cultural Process in the Iliad 18.478-6, 19.373-80 ("Shield of Achilles") and Exodus 25: 1-40: 38 ("Art of the Covenant...