Proof

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein
Odysseus and Penelope, 1802
Oil on canvas

In a much-studied sequence of Homer’s Odysseythe old maid Eurýkleia bathes a beggar’s feet only to discover the precise scar that she knows to be of her lord, Odysseus. She responds, in a loud whisper:

“Oh yes! You are Odysseus! Ah, dear child! I could not see you until now — not till I knew my master’s very body with my hands!” (Homer, The Odyssey; trans. Robert Fitzgerald)

Famously, this passage has been discussed by the literary scholar Erich Auerbach as an example of proto-realism in Western literature, of the relationship between historicity, psychology, and text. This, of course, is in contrast (in Auerbach’s argument) to the Old Testament narrative, which has a different sort of relationship with history, psychology, and text. For Auerbach, Homer’s narrative forms the type of literature that aims at “mimesis,” the description of life in all its varied forms, whereas the Old Testament narrative forms the type of literature that aims at transformative truth. Continue reading “Proof”

The Apostle and the Rhetorician

Cesare Maccari
Cicero Denouncing Catiline, 1888
Fresco

A few months ago, I found myself reading (for no explicit purpose other than reading leisure) some of the speeches of Marcus Tullius Cicero, the famous Roman orator. There I discovered a surprising turn-of-phrase in one of his famous denunciations of Catiline. Cicero is here referring to how they were able to uncover the Catilinian conspiracy:

… not on the basis of intelligence or of any human wisdom, but as a result of many unambiguous signs from the immortal gods… (Cicero, In Catilinam II)

Continue reading “The Apostle and the Rhetorician”

The Eye of Mordor

David Day
The Dark Tower of Mordor (detail), 1979
Illustration

As Frodo and Sam cross the Dead Marches, lead by the converted Smeagol, Sam observes that his master is feeling a heavier weight. The Ring is a heavy, terrible burden, and the closer it is brought to its maker, the heavier it weighs upon the Ring-Bearer. But even moreso than the Ring, Frodo begins to feel the weight of the Eye: Continue reading “The Eye of Mordor”