From Homer to Menander: Forces in Greek Poetic Fiction

By L. A. Post | Go to book overview
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The Pattern of Success: Homer's Odyssey

IT WILL readily be granted, I imagine, that fiction is not only itself a force in human life, but that it is also of all arts the most capable of presenting to the imagination a representative model of human fate. It alone may hope to include in the imitation of life all the forces that move men from within or act upon them from without. Such forces help to determine the destiny of individuals and of nations. The part played by fiction in educating and inspiring leaders of men and their followers has varied greatly from nation to nation and from age to age; hence a historical study of fiction as a force has an essential contribution to make to philosophy of history. Indeed some comparison of the parts played by fiction in different times and climes must, I suppose, necessarily be included in any really dynamic study of history. We must distinguish the dramatic or the dynamic from the pictorial in history as in art. History may be presented as a tapestry that displays no more than eternal artistries of circumstance or as a theater of full life, a neverending sequence of interacting forces: some material, some moral, and some--the religious, spiritual, or philosophic--that operate on the level of inspiration or creative imagination.

Such a dynamic study of history, which would include the dynamics of fiction as a force in history, lies beyond the scope of my ambition. But in studying the aesthetic of forces in a particular field of fiction it is necessary to have the larger import of such analysis in mind, for it is the significance of the larger field that lends authority to the cultivation of the smaller plot. In fact, it will be necessary from time to time to throw out for inspection occa

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