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The burial of Hektor Brian Satterfield

The burial of Hektor

Brian Satterfield

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ISBN : 9780549568117
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280 pages
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The Burial of Hektor and the Emergence of the Spiritual World of the Polis in the Iliad offers an argument that two key episodes in the Iliad---the burial of Hektor, and the anger of Achilles---help to lay the conceptual foundations for the polisMoreThe Burial of Hektor and the Emergence of the Spiritual World of the Polis in the Iliad offers an argument that two key episodes in the Iliad---the burial of Hektor, and the anger of Achilles---help to lay the conceptual foundations for the polis and its larger spiritual world. The dissertation is in three parts. Chapter One, The Modem Rejection of Homer as Thinker: Parry, Wolf, and the Origins of a Primitive Homer lays a groundwork for the dissertation as a whole, offering a critical review of the once influential view that Homer was a primitive. Of particular consequence for Homerists, the chapter argues, is the notions adoption by certain veins of oral theory, which came to view the presumptively traditional dictional system of epic as representative of a monolithic cultural system in which views regarding the value of life were shared by all speakers of the traditional language. The chapter attempts to disinter the roots of these views in order to make them more amenable to reflection, ultimately suggesting that the assumption of a critical and reflective Homer makes better sense of the epics that we have.-With Chapters Two and Three, the dissertation turns to interpretation, endeavoring to point to key ways in which the epic helps to prepare the ground for the coming polis age. Chapter Two deals with the burial of Hektor, arguing that its significance is carefully prepared from the beginning of the epic by its seven line proem, which seems to forebode that Hektor will be eaten by the birds and dogs. When Achilles instead acquiesces to Zeus order and returns Hektors corpse for burial in Book XXIV, the chapter argues, it thus comes as an astonishing final act of pity in a poem of otherwise unrelenting harshness. This act has, moreover, a deep conceptual significance: for in Achilles acquiescence in Hektors right to receive burial we see acknowledgement of the humanity of an enemy. That the poem discovers and articulates such a right, the chapter suggests, is indicative of critical reflection on the nature of the human as human that in important respects prepares the way for the thinkers of the sixth and fifth centuries.-A similar depth of reflection, Chapter Three argues, is evident in the epics treatment of the quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilles in Iliad I. For in contrast to some recent readings, the chapter argues that the anger of Achilles can be seen, not only as a traditional theme, but more fundamentally as a way of posing basic questions about the nature of political authority and its legitimate grounds. Therewith, the chapter suggests, it paves the way for the polis, its middle-space, and the new primacy accorded public debate, persuasion, rhetoric, and logos.