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Open Collection of Student Writing (OCSW)

Sublimity in Simplicity: Analyzing The Odyssey

In this paper, I plan to dissect the first five books of The Odyssey. Analyzing the function of Longinus’ theory of the Sublime and how it utilizes itself within the work. We see this idea presented in various ways throughout. From the morphing of gods into other humans and beasts to the aura of “divine comeliness” presented to Jason through Mineva on various occasions. Lastly, the repetition of lines throughout the work: adding to the epics levels of grandeur. It’s my understanding that the sublime encompasses all of those big feelings you encounter when reading a good piece of writing; It almost makes you feel small. Your astonishment at work is what makes it impactful and worthwhile.

This brings me to my first point of discussion. The contortion of godly forms to suit the situations the holy figures find themselves in. One example of this contortion stands out to me, Proteus depiction in Menelaus’s story. It describes the form of Proteus changing himself, “first into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was running water, and then again directly he was a tree…” (1). This line inspires wonder, astonishment at the gods’ ability to fight against his capture by Menelaus and his men. But my true amazement of this tale was the men’s faculty to keep grasp of the ocean god as he fought against them. How is it possible to hold running water? That’s my sense of awe, the strength of man’s will to contain the uncontainable.

The gods prove their supreme power through various forms of manipulation of the natural world. First, through the aforementioned modification of their physical body next, through their advantageous ability to contort the emotions of those around them. We see this through Minerva’s infliction of importance onto Telemachus as he addresses the masses. “Minerva endowed him with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marveled at him as he went by…”(2). Not only is the sublime reflected in the reader but through the masses mentioned. They respect Telemachus because of his father’s title but also because of Minerva’s intervention.

Lastly, I wanted to speak about Homers’ use of repetition in this text. It’s his way of making an impactful message stick, imploring you to pay more attention to it. Much of this story takes place on various mornings and Homer’s favorite way to introduce them is,” Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,..” (3). When I would read this line I was reminded of the lines that came before it, tying the piece together concisely and powerfully. This inspired a sense of wonder at the writing of Homer in general, creating a real-world sublimity that enriched the reading experience.

In reflection, the sublime rears its head in The Odyssey more times than I can mention in this short analysis. I am still stuck by Homer’s ability to both depict the gods as common people and feared immortals. That undertone of duality also plays a role in the ever-present sublimity in the examples I have listed above. The contortion of Proteus’ body would not have been near as impressive if it was not paired with the conflict of mortal man. The power of Minevas’s influence over emotions was impressive because of our relation to both Telemachus and the common citizen. Lastly, the repetition of lines within the work was impactful because we were able to wonder at Homers ability to tie it all together.




ODYSSEY, by HOMER, Compact Anthology of World Literature, 2016, p. 240. (3) ODYSSEY, by HOMER, Compact Anthology of World Literature, 2016, p. 240. (2) ODYSSEY, by HOMER, Compact Anthology of World Literature, 2016, p. 252. (1)

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