What was John Gardener up to when he wrote Jason and Medeia? Hint: Find out more about the original Jason and the Argonauts!
But before Apollonius of Rhodes came Homer
Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey in the second half of the 9th century BC; that’s 700 years before Apollonius!
Stories of the Trojan War derive from a specific historical conflict usually dated to the 12th or 11th centuries BC; that’s 300 years before Homer!
What did Homer, Apollonius and Gardner all have in common?
They were all re-telling famous stories passed down through the ages--stories that everybody knew about, all of them were Hero’s Journeys.
They were all using the epic poem format…what is that?
Everything you need to know about epic poetry and were afraid to ask!
The first epics were products of preliterate societies and oral poetic traditions.
Oral epics were constructed in short episodes, each of equal status, interest and importance to make them easy to memorize.
The poet recalls each episode in turn and uses the completed episodes to recreate the entire epic as he performs it.
Epics have 6 basic characteristics:
The hero is of imposing stature, of national or international importance, and of great historical or legendary significance.
The setting is vast, covering many nations, the world, or the universe.
The action consists of deeds of great valor or requiring superhuman courage.
More on epics…
Supernatural forces—gods, angels, demons—interest themselves in the action.
A language style of sustained elevation is used.
The poet retains a measure of objectivity.
But wait! There’s more!
The hero is on a cyclical journey or quest
He faces adversaries that try to defeat him in his journey, and returns home significantly transformed by his journey
The epic hero illustrates traits, performs deeds, and exemplifies certain morals that are valued by the society from which the epic originates.
Many epic heroes are recurring characters in the legends of their native culture.
Conventions of Epics (see if you recognize any of these)
# Praepositio : Opens by stating the theme or cause of the epic.
This may take the form of a purpose (as in Milton, who proposed "to justify the ways of God to men");
of a question (as in the Iliad , where Homer asks the Muse which god it was who caused the war); or of a situation (as in the Song of Roland , with Charlemagne in Spain).
Invocation: Writer invokes a Muse, one of the nine daughters of Zeus. The poet prays to the Muses to provide him with divine inspiration to tell the story of a great hero.
In medias res
The story opens "in the middle of things,” with the hero at his lowest point. Usually flashbacks show earlier portions of the story.
Catalogues and genealogies are given. These long lists of objects, places, and people place the finite action of the epic within a broader, universal context. Often, the poet is also paying homage to the ancestors of audience members.
An epithet is a combination of a descriptive phrase and a noun.
It presents a miniature portrait that identifies a person or thing by highlighting a prominent characteristic of that person or thing: “grey-eyed Athena”
Homer repeated his epithets often, so listeners could easily remember and picture the person or thing each time it was mentioned.
It’s all about LOVE ( always has been, always will be!
The subject of love had been treated in the romantic spirit before the time of Apollonius in writings that have perished, but the "Argonautica" is perhaps the first poem the expression of this spirit is developed with elaboration.
It’s all about love…
John Gardner said: “Jason and Medeia, is about a set of polarities that are in the original myth. It's a modernized version of the same question. First of all, it's the polarity of male and female. Jason is archetypically male and Medeia archetypically female and that's a question which has become very interesting because sexuality these days is a front question for philosophy. It's also a book about mystical intuition.”
Gardner retells the ancient story of Jason and Medeia
Gardner’s book is a verse epic in twenty-four books complete with a council in heaven and a catalogue of heroes, the cast featuring a blind seer, Harpies and Sirens, an enchanted ship, and fire-breathing bulls. It is a mythological quest poem (the quest of the Golden Fleece) and a romantic tragedy rolled into one.
How does he do it, boys and girls?
If it’s an epic, then it’s dactylic hexameter!
(also known as "heroic hexameter") it is a form of meter in poetry or a rhythmic scheme. It is traditionally associated with classical epic poetry in both Greek and Latin, and was consequently considered to be the Grand Style of classical poetry. The premier examples of its use are Homer's Iliad and Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid.
Idiot’s guide to Dactylic Hexameter:
Hold up your left hand and look at your index finger.
Notice that the finger has one long bone followed by two short ones.
Another word for “finger” is “digit,” which comes from “dactyl,” the Greek word for “finger.” This is where the dactylic meter gets its name.
The two short bones are also the same length as the longer one--see that? and similarly in the epic hexameter any pair of short syllables may be replaced by a long.
It is named the dactylic hexameter because the line is made up of six dactylic feet. The dactyl, one long syllable followed by two short ones…
Could you, like, give me an example before I fall asleep?
Oops, gotta tell you about the caesura first!
There must be a division between words at one of three points in the line:
So it sounds like…?
BUM da da BUM da da BUM// Da da BUM da da BUM da da BUM BUM
GOD is our STRENGTH and our REFUGE: therefore WILL we not TREMBLE?
SING divine MUSE the imPLACab-le WRATH of AchillE-US
Heavy with WOE to the BANDED sons of aCHA-IA!
Man y the souls of the might y, the souls of re doubt able heroes
Mrs. Jensen, my head aches! Will this be on the quiz?