Ovid’s Metamorphoses: Notes towards an Analysis

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle analyses the lasting power of Ovid’s great poem

Ovid’s wasn’t the first Metamorphoses. Before him, there was Nicander’s Heteroeumena, whose title is usually translated as ‘metamorphoses’, but Nicander’s poem has been lost. It was Ovid’s vast retelling of the great myths of Greek and Roman civilisation that became the definitive classical text on the subject of transformation.

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Helen in Egypt: H. D.’s Modernist Epic

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle visits Egypt courtesy of H. D.’s response to the epic poem

Helen of Troy was a mere phantom conjured by the goddess Hera. The real wife of Menelaus, the woman we know as ‘Helen of Troy’, spent the duration of the Trojan War in Egypt, having been taken there by Hermes and kept out of harm’s way, while some pretender was used back in Troy as a stand-in for the real Helen. The Greeks and the Trojans both went to war over what was, effectively, an illusion.

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The Odyssey: Notes Towards an Analysis of Homer’s Poem

In this week’s Dispatches from The Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle revisits Homer’s Odyssey, the epic poem that resists our analysis

Of all the epic poems from the classical era, Homer’s Odyssey is the most modern. In ancient Rome, at the court of the Emperor Nero, Petronius parodied its episodic style for his scurrilous and daringly modern ‘novel’ the Satyricon; nearly 2,000 years later, James Joyce used its episodic structure for his scurrilous and daringly modern ‘novel’ Ulysses. There is something novelistic even in Homer’s original poem. Far from being solely a glamorous epic idealising heroes and glorifying war and adventure, Homer’s Odyssey is also about how heroism and adventure often fail to live up to our expectations of them.

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10 of the Best Epic Poems Everyone Should Read

By Dr Oliver Tearle (Loughborough University)

Epic poetry has been a part of literature from the beginning, as the following selection of ten of the greatest epic poems demonstrate. Spanning nearly four millennia, each of these classic works of epic poetry tell us something about the human condition, the struggle to overcome the dark forces of the world, and the nature of heroism.

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The Argonautica – The Forgotten Classical Epic Poem That Changed Literature

In his latest Dispatches from the Secret Library, Dr Oliver Tearle considers Apollonius of Rhodes’ classic tale of Jason and the Golden Fleece

In the world of classical Greek epic poetry, two poems are universally renowned: The Iliad and The Odyssey. Both, of course, are attributed to Homer – whoever he may have been. But there is another classical epic poem, written a few centuries later, which has been largely forgotten – although the story it tells is one of the most celebrated tales from Greek mythology.

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