Reconstructing the Classical Model: Pope’s Homer and Its Influence
Pope’s Homer, and especially his Iliad, was the foundation stone of his poetic reputation and, as is well known, of both his personal financial security and of the degree of independence he was thereafter able to assert in his dealings with the publishing trade over the terms and even of the textual appearance of future publications. It marked a turning-point, in fact, in relations between writers and their society’s custom¬ary agents of transmission. Equally, as the complete, authoritative and above all English translation of the father of all poetry, it was almost at once a cultural platform, second only to Shakespeare, for the Augustan age and for the foreseeable future. Pope’s towering achievement set an unchallengeable standard: it was the classical world made safe for England. Just how safe, and at what cost, and with what contortions, are of course questions resisted by the confidence enshrined in Pope’s text. Nevertheless, as writers such as Maynard Mack and Claude Rawson have begun to ask, just what are the implications of those fea¬tures of his original that Pope chooses to suppress, and how does that suppression take place? In this chapter, the focus will be on Achilles, most heroic of the heroes, central to the Homeric enterprise, and acutely problematic to a translator for another age and time. In under¬standing Pope’s solutions, we are not only brought face to face with a significant perspective on the representation of insanity, but, per¬versely, with a sense of how far high neo-classical culture was obliged to found itself on the misrepresentation of a past civilization.
KeywordsClassical Model Cultural Construction Early Eighteenth Century Divine Intervention Cultural Platform
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