An Idea to Share

While on a short bike ride tonight I had a nifty idea for a series of blog essays. In fact, I thought so highly of it (hmm hubris anyone?) that I thought it would be even more interesting if I could presuade a few other bloggers to do the same thing. I’d collect them and also post links to them over at “BlogWatch”. Hopefully generating interest, traffic, and thought provoking/fun discussion for everyone involved. If, in subsequent weeks, others are interested, we could share hosting of the list of essay links in “Carnival” style (I don’t need to hog the “glory”).

With no further ado … Here it is:

The idea is to compare and contrast two heroic stories from almost the same eras but from very different cultures. The two stories I had in mind were the Hebrew heroic story … that is the story of King David in Samuel I & II … and the Greek heroic poems from the same era by Homer … that is the Iliad (and perhaps the Odyssey). I had in mind perhaps posting once weekly (say Thursdays) on the similarities and differences – to contrast and compare the stories of David and Achilles. We could write on the same subtopic on this theme each week. For example, for next week I was thinking we could write on the openings. To compare and contrast the Iliad‘s immortal opening cadences to the more subtle (tender?) vignette of Hannah giving up of Samuel, her firstborn, to the Temple.
Other topics might include,

  • Musing about what makes a hero a hero. Compare what makes David a Hero to the Hebrews and Achilles a Hero to the Acheans.
  • Compare how the two cultures (and authors) treat Death.
  • How are the two Heros flawed. How do these flaws impact their stories.

Other suggestions for topics of course are welcome. Is this a good idea, or just too weird? Anyhow, for next Thursday if I drum up any other takers or not, I’m going be working on an essay on the first topics listed … the openings. After all, it’s always worthwhile to be especially careful with beginnings. 😉

One final note on translations. Personally, I’ll be using the Robert Fagels Iliad translation (you can find an Amazon link in my extended book list). I also prefer Robert Alter’s The Book of David as a translation for 1st and 2nd Samuel.

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8 comments

  1. Frank says:

    I like it, not sure we (Team Swap) can commit to doing something every week as we do have a weekly commitment for our main site every Thursday, but if you get this going please keep us informed and we will participate as we can.

    Stay strong, be courageous, serve God in all things and always remember that descents occur faster (on and off the bike) then ascents.

  2. Bill Wallo says:

    Mark –

    You might be interested in checking out a book that I just received for review, to be published next week I think.

    It’s called Heroes: Saviors, Traitors and Supermen: A History of Hero Worship.

    I haven’t looked at it in depth (just got it last week) but it looks like it might of interest to the project.

  3. Sherry says:

    Yes, it sounds interesting. I’ll see what I can put together. One of my daughters is reading The Iliad for school right now, so this would tie in.

  4. […] Mark Olson at PsuedoPolymath has an idea. I think I’ll try to participate in this blog-essay thingummy–even though I’m already juggling about nineteen (my all-purpose number) intellectual/study balls right now. The idea is to compare and contrast two heroic stories from almost the same eras but from very different cultures. The two stories I had in mind were the Hebrew heroic story … that is the story of King David in Samuel I & II … and the Greek heroic poems from the same era by Homer … that is the Iliad (and perhaps the Odyssey). I had in mind perhaps posting once weekly (say Thursdays) on the similarities and differences – to contrast and compare the stories of David and Achilles. We could write on the same subtopic on this theme each week. For example, for next week I was thinking we could write on the openings. To compare and contrast the Iliad’s immortal opening cadences to the more subtle (tender?) vignette of Hannah giving up of Samuel, her firstborn, to the Temple. […]

  5. Nailman says:

    Do you have a deadline for the first set of essays?

  6. Andrea R. says:

    Other ideas:

    Compare the women (Hannah, Michal, Abigail, Bathsheba, etc.) to the women in the Iliad (Hecuba, Andromache, Helen)

    The extent to which honor figures into the Samuel accounts vs. the high priority it gets in the Iliad

    Also, I think Hannah could be compared somewhat to Thetis in Bk 1 — the love for a son, the realization of sacrificing that son to a higher calling, etc.

  7. Mark says:

    Andrea,

    Thanks a lot. I’ll make sure to remember that for later entries in this ‘pseudo-Carnival’. 😀

  8. Ed Darrell says:

    You might do well to take a look at Plutarch, especially his work comparing the lives of great Romans with great Greeks (titled, cleverly enough, Lives).

    The comparison between Cicero and Demosthenes has long been among my favorites in literature.

    In short, such comparisons have been done before, and done well. It’s a great idea, your twists on the old idea are great — go see how well it can be done and stick to those high standards.