Viewing the Iliad and myth through the lens of modern psychology, Richard Holway shows in Becoming Achilles: Child-Sacrifice, War, and Misrule in the Iliad and Beyond how the epic underwrites individual and communal catharsis and denial. Sacrificial childrearing generates but also threatens agonistic, glory-seeking ancient Greek cultures. Not only aggression but also knowledge of sacrificial parenting must be purged.
Just as Zeus contrives to have threats to his regime play out harmlessly (to him) in the mortal realm, so the Iliad dramatizes threats to Archaic and later Greek cultures in the safe arena of poetic performance. The epic represents in displaced form destructive mother-son and father-daughter liaisons and the resulting strife within and between generations.
Holway calls into question the Iliad's (and many scholars') presentation of Achilles as a hero who speaks truth to power, learns through suffering, and exemplifies the kingly virtues that Agamemnon lacks. So too the Iliad's cathartic process, whether conceived as purging innate aggression or arriving at moral clarity. Instead, Holway argues, Achilles (and Socrates) try to prove they are the opposite of needy, defenseless children, who fear to acknowledge, much less speak out against, their sacrifice to parents' needs.
What emerges from Holway's analysis is not only a new reading of the Iliad, from its first word to its last, but a revised account of the family dynamics underlying ancient Greek cultures.
|Series:||Greek Studies: Interdisciplinary Approaches Series|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Table of Contents
Foreword Gregory Nagy, General Editor xi
Preface and Acknowledgments xiii
1 The Quarrel 7
2 Heroic Psychology 27
3 Mythobiographies 49
4 Catharsis and Denial 61
5 Fathers and Sons 79
6 Mothers and Sons 105
7 Departures from Maternal Agendas 131
8 Self in Crisis 153
Epilogue: Achilles and Socrates 177
Selected Bibliography 231
What People are Saying About This
"A profound and timeless study of the psychological consequences of being raised in a martial society that values the defense of honorpersonal and collectiveabove all else."
"This book is not only good to think with: it is also good, very good, to talk about."
- Grace Ledbetter
"By applying the current psychology of attachment theory to the Iliad, this book illuminates Homer and Greek myth. What we see is a culture that depends on and perpetuates child-sacrifice and destructive family dynamics."