My latest post at the group blog NewAPPS, continuing the Homer theme. Opening paragraphs below, go to NewAPPS for the whole thing.
The idea of Homer is significantly tied up with the idea of Europe, which is not to say that there is one thing which is Europe and that it has some pure ideal beginning. It is to say that concepts like ‘Europe’ have origins and histories, and that some ways of thinking about origin and history are particularly influential. Though Homer is associated with the beginning of Europe, the word ‘Europe’ does not appear in the two epics, and the same applies for ‘Asia’.
The ambiguities around identity, history, and origin, are very apparent in relation to the name ‘Homer’, which may or many not be the real name of an ‘author’ of The Iliad and The Odyssey which may or may not have had a single author, and which certainly build on a very old tradition of recitation and singing of poetic narratives.
‘Homer’ (last time I am using scare quotes, let it be assumed from this point that my use of the name, is in a very nominalistic spirit bearing in mind the issues just mentioned) might be taken as the beginning of Europe, because it is at the beginning of any literary tradition, which might be described as European, and presents a kind of whole world view of what it was like to be a late Bronze Age European, as far as the historical layers added to the poem until the Archaic Age in Greece, along with the nature of literary and mythical conventions allow, as well as the geographical and social focus of the poetry.
For the rest, go here.