The meaning of Moira: Fate, measure and glory in "The Iliad"
Jowsey, Nicole M.
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This project seeks to examine the complexity of the Ancient Greek concept moira, understood simultaneously as fate and measure, and how the concept of moira is a crucial and central them in Homer's epic poem The Iliad. Furthermore, this project will also explore how moira is tied to the Ancient Greek concept of kleos, which is understood as glory, and how they operate within the context of the Homeric hero, whose measure is glory. The first chapter, "The Law of Fate: Moira among Gods and Mortals," argues that moira is an external force that operates as what I will call the "Law of Fate." Utilizing several moments in the text, including various instances of matching that occur, I argue that this law is prescribed for all beings in the world—mortals and immortals—who must abide by it and act in accordance to it. The second chapter, "The Community of the Dead," focuses on the "Catalogue of the Ships" and the "Trojan Catalogue" found in Book II of The Iliad, and argues that the Catalogues form a community of the dead. Using the work of Jean-Luc Nancy and Maurice Blanchot, I argue that the community of the dead is constituted on the basis of finitude, and is absent and unavowable. Finally, I discuss how this community is inscribed in literature, and through this inscription ties itself to measure. The third chapter, " Aletheia : The Figure of Achilleus," examines the concept of aletheia, which is understood as truth, and its relationship to moira. I use the work of Martin Heidegger, Marcel Detienne and Plato, to explore how aletheia can be thought to be truth as a disclosure. Using this notion of truth, I examine Achilleus' speech to the Embassy in Book IX, and argue that he is a site of aletheia who discloses the fate of all mortals to the world because of the relationship he has to his own measure and fate. I also argue that Achilleus can be read as the figure of Modern man using Heidegger's concept of anxiety to examine key moments in Achilleus' speech, and thus show his relationship to modernity. The fourth and final chapter, "The Shield of Achilleus in Homer and Auden," is an examination of both the ekphrasis found in Homer and the poem of W.H. Auden's and their relationship to moira. I argue that the ekphrasis found in Homer is the unrepresentable because it is an instance of Achilleus' own moira . Finally I argue that Auden's poem that connects the Ancient and Modern worlds, further demonstrating that the Shield is tied to Achilleus' moira and the hero of the past no longer exists.