Wooden Horse: From Odysseus to Socrates


The Wooden Horse is a powerful, provocative, and engaging new work-by perhaps the world's most insightful and acclaimed historian of the ancient world-that establishes the foundation for the Western world's conceptions of society, philosophy, and poetry by tracing the processes by which consciousness evolved from its roots in the mother cults of Ancient Greece, with its attendant matriarchal mode of thought, to be replaced by a patriarchal world of laws with a religious ...
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The Wooden Horse is a powerful, provocative, and engaging new work-by perhaps the world's most insightful and acclaimed historian of the ancient world-that establishes the foundation for the Western world's conceptions of society, philosophy, and poetry by tracing the processes by which consciousness evolved from its roots in the mother cults of Ancient Greece, with its attendant matriarchal mode of thought, to be replaced by a patriarchal world of laws with a religious counterpart in the Olympian gods.

By examining Homer's great epic poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey-the West's most comprehensive picture of the heroic age, which document the fact that the Trojan War stalemate was resolved through strategic thinking (via Odysseus's invention of the wooden horse) rather than brute physical superiority-Keld Zeruneith explores this fundamental paradigm shift, which constituted nothing less than the liberation of the modern mind.

With his close analyses encompassing the poetry, drama, philosophy, and history of the ancient world, Keld Zeruneith casts new light on our cultural ballast and provides startlingly original insight into the psychological forces behind the genesis of European culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Danish literary critic and historian Zeruneith sets out to explain how conscious thought for Western civilization emerged in ancient Greece through the works of certain poets and philosophers. His examination begins with Homer, includes poets and tragedians such as Hesiod and Sophocles, and ends with Socrates. According to Zeruneith, it is important to start with Odysseus because it is through him that Homer presented a character relying on intellect rather that heroic strength. After Homer, writes Zeruneith, poets such as Archilochus began to move away from mythical subject matter to a style of poetry expressing internal thoughts. Also, pre-Socratic philosophers began to rely on empirical analysis rather than myths to explain the world. This emphasis on internal thought reached its culmination in the philosophy of Socrates, the highest goal of which is a life dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom. Overall, Zeruneith successfully combines historical analysis and philosophical reflection to show how the ancient Greeks' emphasis on intellect and rationality influenced our understanding of history and philosophy. Recommended for academic libraries.
—Scott Duimstra

Kirkus Reviews
A sweeping, accessible inquiry into what the makers of classical Greek literature were thinking about. Danish literary critic Zeruneith's mentalites approach is a bit old-fashioned; first-generation Freudians such as E. R. Dodds and mythologians such as Jessie Weston were worrying about the ancient mind decades ago, and even such comparatively recent studies as Julian Jaynes's The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind and Bruno Snell's The Discovery of the Mind are 30 and more years old. Unlike many others, Zeruneith reads the original Greek sources and can make sense of etymologies; like them, though, he works from the anthropologically problematic assumption that it is possible to "read" another culture across not just space but time. The premise may be faulty-or it may not be-but the author's view that the Greeks had the same concerns as ours and that their literature was made up of "concrete interpretations of experience" has the virtue of making, say, Euripides' worries about reason's slide into "the chaos of the unleashed instinctual world" more comprehensible, the tale of Prometheus as a peacemaker punished for breaking the cycle of violence that much more affecting. Zeruneith pays attention to the smaller concerns of classical scholarship: the meaning of dolos, metis and ate; the structure of tragedy as trilogy; the parallel crises (in the Greek sense) that drive The Iliad. But he also works larger themes, such as the development of Greek thought from the Ionian epic to the comparatively modern works of Aristophanes and Plato-in the second of which we, to follow Zeruneith, must wonder just what those voices Socrates heard in his head were. A readable,vigorous survey-if a touch overlong-of a piece with modern works of classical scholarship such as Roberto Calasso's The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1993) and Anne Carson's Eros the Bittersweet (1986).
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590200414
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Keld Zeruneith is an internationally recognized literary scholar and historian. Among his many awards is the Gyldendal Prize, Denmark's most distinguished literary honor, which was awarded for The Wooden Horse upon its publication there in 2004.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 9 Translator's Note 10 Foreword 11 Part 1 Odysseus I The Wooden Horse-The Myth of Discursivity 21 II The Homeric Project 32 The Myth and Metaphor of "Homer" 32 Homer as Implicit Narrative Consciousness 38 The Oral Tradition and the Crisis Works 41 The Homeric Hero Complex 44 The Psychological Universe 52 Structure and Intertextuality 56 Compositional Reflection and Counter-reflection 62 Stages of Consciousness 66 Unifying Narrative Elements 68 Narrative Hierarchy, Beauty and Enchantment 75 III Dual Religiosity 86 Chthonic and Olympian Gods 86 The Great Mother 89 The Origins and Gods of Olympos 101 Fate and Free Will 103 Delusion 113 Religious Duplicity 118 IV Athene and the Apple of Discord-On Eros, Eris and Metis 119 Eros and eris 119 Prehistory 121 Division and Unification 123 Athene-Goddess of metis 125 V The Telemachy 136 The Maternal Bond 136 Becoming Independent 141 The Archetype of the Journey 145 Erotic Development 149 The Most Beautiful Woman in the World 151 VI Odysseus 160
"The Man" 160 The Paradigm of Development 161 Character Profile 164 Mother and Son 179 VII The Wanderings 191 The Repressed and the Voyager 191 Emblematics 195 Composition 198 The Substance and Meaning of the Adventures 199 The Golden Age Society-The Phaiakians 218 VIII The Trials of Homecoming 226 Reunion 226 Penelope 233 The Power of the Bow 242 The New Year's Festival-As Mythical Subtext 248 The Bed 253 IX The Homeric Utopia 258 The telos of Revenge 258 The End of Strife 260 The Royal Ideal 262 Odysseus as an Ideal Figure 265 Homer the Utopian 267 Part 2 Socrates X The Subjective and Reflective Breakthrough in Poetry and Philosophy 277 XI Hesiod as Transitional Poet 281 The Calling ofthe Poet 281 Family Tree and Succession 286 Misogyny 289 Eros and Conflict 292 Justice and Utopia 294 XII The Lyrical Sense of Self 299 Archilochus-Warrior Poet 299 Sappho-The Tenth Muse 306 XIII Presocratic Thought 311 A Common Field of Meaning 311 Anaximander's apeiron 313 Projections and Monotheism-Xenophanes 316 Heraclitus-The Man Who Would Be Obscure 317 Metempsychosis-Pythagoras 323 The Logical Necessity of Thought-Parmenides 324 Strife and Love as Philosophical Principles-Empedocles 325 Conclusion 328 XIV The Life and Form of Tragedy 329 The Return of Myth-Dithyramb and Genesis 329 Dramaturgy 333 Tragedy's Athens 336 Tragedy According to Aristotle 338 XV Aeschylus 344 The Poet from Eleusis 344 The Trilogy as Dramatic Necessity 347 The Persians 348 Seven Against Thebes 351 The Suppliant Maidens 354 The Fire-Bringer-Prometheus Bound 358 The Oresteia: Metaphorical Paraphrase 363 Zeus Teleios 366 Suffering and Learning 371 Hubris-The Sure Road to Perdition 374 Choice and Sacrifice 379 Klytemnestra 382 Helen-The Dialectic Between eros and eris 388 The Untrustworthy Seer 391 The Matricide 392 The lex talionis of Blood Vengeance 397 The Principle of Father Power 400 XVI Sophocles 409 Metaphysical Indeterminacy 409 The daimon of the Tragic Hero 414 Ajax-The Steadfast Tragic Hero 415 Antigone-The Tragic Heroine 418 Oedipus the King-Riddle and Prehistory 424 The Riddle Solver 427 Kreon-The Pragmatic Politician 433 Wife-Mother 433 Becoming Your Own Self 437 Oedipus at Colonus-A Gift to Mankind 440 Guilt Free and Sacred 442 The Tempters 444 Apotheosis 446 Philoktetes-A Moral Mobilization-Tract 448 The Wound, the Bow and the Weapon of the Tongue 450 XVII Euripides 456 Poet of Crisis 456 Odysseus' Cynicism 461 Iphigenia at Aulis-The Sacrifice 464 Elektra-The Matricide 468 Orestes-The Erinyes of Conscience 474 Iphigenia at Tauris-The Reconciliation 476 Medea-Uncontrolled Passion 478 Hippolytos-Sexual Purism 482 The Bacchae-A Vision 487 The End of Tragedy 493 XVIII Socrates 496 The Unity of Plato's Work 496 Utopia and telos 499
"Socrates" 503 Eros-The Path to Self-Development 506 Daimonion 513 The Dialectical Method-The Paradox of the Oral Tradition 515 Sex and State-Xanthippe and the Role of Women in Democracy 523 The Free Man and the Lover of Boys 532 Diotima 535 Accusation, Judgement, and Death 537 The Utopian State 547 The Fulfillment of the Prefiguration 556 Notes 562 Bibliography 591 Index 597
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