Why/How have The Iliad and The Odyssey been appropriated?How and why have Homer's Iliad and/or Odyssey been valued and appropriated in a range of historical and other contexts?

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several ideas from both The Iliad and The Odyssey have been appropriated and applied in different literary and authentic contexts.  In terms of Odysseus' narrative, Joyce's own Ulysses casts Homer's work in a different light.  Similar to Odyssesus' struggle to travel over wide and expansive terrain to represent his journey, Joyce's mythic journey takes part in the life of an ordinary day of Leopold Bloom.  The modern appropriation of the ancient text enhances the notions of heroic quest, heroic figure, and the differences between the ancients and the moderns.  The basic premise of Homer's Odyssey is the idea of the journey home.  This journey casts "home" as both a physical and mental place of spiritual fulfullment, and thus it is only fitting that such a voyage is filled with challenges and trying times throughout.  This becomes the "ultimate road trip."  Literature is filled with modern interpretations and different applications of this particular concept.  Any narrative that features a journey filled with obstacles where a character seeks to reach their own sense of physical or mental "home" owes a great debt to Homer's Odyssey.  History can also embody this theme, as we note examples of individuals whos struggle to achieve a desired end has become an integral part of the historic experience.  (The idea of the self made individual, the immigrant narrative, the political figure who rises from mere nothingness to assume a high level of political stature.)

The appropriation of The Iliad might be more thematic.  A critical theme that emerges out of The Iliad is the illustration of tragedy that results between equally desireable, yet ultimately incompatible courses of action.  The characters in The Iliad are set amongst such polarities, and the way they endure and face such challenges marks potential and hopeful solutions out of emotionally dire circumstances.  We see indivduals poised between honorable ends and protecting human life, protagonists set amongst the protection of country and the saving of family, people who must navigate the harrowing terrains of being simultaneously committed to both desire and duty, and those who are plagued with the pursuit of dreams accompanying the reality of emptiness.  These are themes that have been illuminated throughout literature.  Shakespeare in dramas such as Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and Hamlet evoke similar themes as the Iliad's ideas of incompatiblity.  In Madame Bovary, Flaubert poises his heroine, Emma, in similar situations where dreams are undercut by reality, and yet there is a pursuit of one knowing that the other is to quickly follow.  Even in modern films this theme is exhibited.  In Casablanca, one sees both the results of individuals being poised between equally desireable, but ultimately incompatible courses of action as well as individuals pursuing dreams with emotional deserts being the result.   History again embodies this theme with nations being poised between two equally valid notions of the good and having to choose one, or nations pursuing dreams at the expene of the desert to follow.

dee43 | Student

how and why have the iliad and the odyssey been valued and approiated in a range of historicl and other contexts?