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Homer, Medieval or Modern? The Battle for the Literary Canon

Publication: Philologica Jassyensia, VII (1), p. 165-171
Publisher:Institutul de Filologie Română „A. Philippide”
Abstract:Coextensive with the settlement of the modern literary canon, so with the institutionalization of literature in our acceptation of the term, the querelle d’Homère or battle of the books traversed Classic Modernity, aka ‘long eighteenth century’ as a reenactment of the tradition-invention dichotomy. While the prerequisites of the said conceptual polemos were, indeed, of traditional stock, the inflections of the clash assumed modern dimensions. On either side of the Channel what was as stake was how to set the right balance between two archetypal visions, one past-bound and showing unconditional observance of received values, rules and norms, the other future-geared, with high stakes on history and historical occurrence, on the dynamic view of culture/ literature and the conviction that progress can only be validated function of unavoidable change. Between historical and geometrical Homer, the former retrieved in his uncouth primitivism, the latter modelled on unfailingly straight and therefore correct classic lines (sic), the conceptual war was eventually won by the romantic taste for novelty. This entailed such phenomena as: period and periodization, a taste for remoteness whether in time or space or both, the sense of modern dividedness and difference, the sense of cultural identity along ethnogenetic – cultural geography – institutional(ized) lines etc. At the end of the day, it could be said that the famous conflict resulted in the modern sense of identity and/as difference.
Key words:Homer, the battle of the books, the ancients vs. the moderns, geometrical vs. historical, modernity
Language: English

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