Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0014461, Thu, 21 Dec 2006 16:53:04 -0200

Re: Soliloquies, American writers, Greek Gods
Re: [NABOKV-L] Soliloquies, American writers, Greek GodsStan Kelly-Bootle wrote:
Homer's audiences KNEW the characters & endings and BELIEVED the stories; the Gods and Goddesses, mortals and semis were REAL not mythic.
CHW wrote:
Some portion of Homer's audiences knew the stories and their endings. But every story, like every old joke, was once new to everybody at some stage in their lives. As for the Greeks implicitly believing that the Gods, Goddesses, mortals and semi-mortals were real: I very seriously doubt that. It is, imho, a bad mistake to take it for granted that early or ancient man was more stupid than modern man.

SKB answered: Charles: you are right (here and there!). In the interests of list brevity I oversimplified the Homeric experience! I had in mind the difference between reading VN, where the characters & plots may be BELIEVABLE but only within their own fictional framework (and, of course, the endings are often surprising even after nth re-reading!) and the Homeric situation - almost the BIRTH of Western Literature and therefore requiring insights independent of our contemporary views of fiction, authorship, and readership.
There is really SOLID evidence that Homer's audience either believed in its Gods or carefully behaved according to such beliefs (how else do you establish what people really believe?) - we do know of the occasional skeptic but, in general, life revolved around the rituals of devotion, regular sacrifices to one's particular choices of deity - recalling that the POLYtheistic Greeks were remarkably TOLERANT to other religions/cults and their choice of deities. It was those damned, boring MONotheists who invented the murderous aspects of HERESY!

Jansy Mello, still quoting others (a thoughtful parrot, perhaps?): Eliot "dramatized in his playscript Becket's death for an audience who would sit not fifty yards from the place where Becket died. So had Joyce, staging the first scene of Ulysses, atop a tower any Dublin reader would have known how to reach by tram". Eliot, "By way of that he had called the Mythological Method,was attempting an extended derivation from Ulysses, the book...he boldly exploited what had been in Periclean times its central convention, that everyone sitting in the theater knew the unchanging myth, knew what must happen.." ..." That men shoud learn to merely look and listen, that attention to what was and was not evidence might deliver the methodiz'd mind from self-deception, etc..." ( Hugh Kenner, Joyce's Voices, 1976 prefatory)

I picked up Kenner's book today, since I wanted to find where the author had used the word "stage" in at least four different meanings in only one paragraph. Then I realized I had forgotten most of his arguments and decided to read it all over,from scratch.
I agree with SKB about the Greek's belief in their Gods. These may have continued metamorphosing until now since we still have moments of epiphany that get lost by lack of reverential awe ( less than by the absence of rituals). Also, as G.Steiner noted, we hate those that tried to rob us of the wonders of polytheism...

SKB, have you ever read H. Heine's texts written in Paris ( he was in exile there, wasn't he?) where he attempted to explain German Romantism and fairies, to the French?
Jansy-in-the Jungle

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