Byron and Joyce through Homer: Don Juan and Ulysses by Hermione de Almeida

By Hermione de Almeida

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Sample text

Myths, they gave rise to an epic tradition that swelled over the years not only with true successors but, in alarming fecundity, with pretenders to epic, parodies of epic, and solemn substitutes to epic. Paralleling, absorbing, mocking and challenging Homer in Don juan and Ulysses, Byron and joyce realize they must do no less for everything literate that Homer has fostered. We are all Greeks. As the early Hellenes had always maintained, all things literate have their origin in Homer. To begin with The Poet, with the beginning, ensures one of an enormous task and a very complex end.

They are entities yoked by violence together; each true but not always related and often contradictory, they represent in their disparity and disconnectedness the random, fragmented modern situation. Where the mythic components of the Odyssey cleave together, channeling toward each other to form one impression, the mythic components of Don Juan and Ulysses tense and pull in multiple directions of meaning (or mystery) without resolution. Hence, even as they use Homer's story of Odysseus as their model, Byron and Joyce declare the inadequacy of this myth as sufficient archetype for the infinitely more complex contemporary worldpicture.

Myth has always nourished a form of history ('Troy owes to Homer what whist owes to Hoyle' 111, 90), with oral poetry preserving record before the advent of the historian: Mnemosyne, goddess of myth, soon became goddess of memory and record. Hence literary, specifically epic, tradition can be read as a history of myth's attempts to record history and culture. The form of Greek epic was inaugurated when a new social order set out to revalue its heritage by removing the barbarities of its recent conquest from the record, expurgating the folk-memory, and transforming 'old stories, as "nasty and brutish" as they were short ...

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