Essay about Analysis Of The Poem ' Katabasis ' And The Odyssey '

Essay about Analysis Of The Poem ' Katabasis ' And The Odyssey '

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Katabasis , or the descent to the underworld, is a common theme found in a diverse number of epic literatures. The hero journeys to the netherworld or to the land of the dead and returns, often with a quest-object or a loved one, or with heightened awareness and knowledge . This essay takes the convention of katabasis as its point of departure into the literal and symbolic depths of Death and the Underworld within and below the Homeric epic narrative. I will first explore the topic of mortality that katabasis dramatizes, and we will ask what sort of realization this encounter between life and death might offer – or what kind of “gazing” an abyss might be capable to do. Then, the analysis will focus on passages extracted from the Iliad and the Odyssey, contemplate on the ontological questions prompted by katabasis experiences: What are the characters and cultural values of these heroes who plumb these abysmal nadirs? How might a literary investigation of the deepest fathoms help us understand the forms of the unfathomable? What is the symbolic relationship between the underworld and the world above, and how does the descending experience redefine those who return (and those who not)? And ultimately how katabasis, as an epic convention, serve the heroes in achieving his heroic identity and embracing his cultural value.
“Why so much grief for me? No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate. And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it, neither brave man nor coward,
I tell you – it’s born with us the day that we are born.”
(Iliad VI, 580-584)
Mortality is the prevailing theme in the tales of ancient heroes, and the Iliad and Odyssey are no exception. The impermanent of human life is the scorching question for the heroes of...


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... fatal opposites, clandestine violation of boundaries and laws. All the ordeals of the human condition culminate in the ultimate ordeal of a warrior hero’s violent death in battle, detailed in all its ghastly varieties by the poetry of the Iliad. This deep preoccupation with the primal experience of violent death in war has several possible explanations. Some argue that the answer has to be sought in the simple fact that ancient Greek society accepted war as a necessary and even important part of life. Others seek a deeper answer by pointing to the poet’s awe-struck sense of uncontrollable forces at work in the universe, even of a personified concept of Death itself, which then becomes, through the poet’s own artistic powers, some kind of eerie esthetic thing. Death can be view from life’s point of view as its destined conclusion and necessary dissolution. (citation)

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