Shield of Achilles Interpretation Academic Help

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In our lecture on the Shield of Achilles, we discuss one function of (epic) poetry: it can try to present us with a picture of the whole world. As we can see from this poem, this means thinking not just about the facts of the world (in the world of the Iliad, the facts are the realities of the city at war, in Homer’s world, the facts are the realities of Greeks in conflict with themselves) but the structures and truths beneath and beyond those facts.

The shield shows us what the Greeks imagined to be the center of life: the Gods, who may be the prime movers of the world, but whose motives can only be imagined, not understood (The constellations are the stories we assemble about the motives of distant things). The shield shows us an ideal of the world, a picture that has some elements of the real world (a king, for example)—but it depicts the way they ought to be, rather than the way they are (This king, unlike Agamemnon, is just and beloved). The shield shows us the outer edge of the Greeks’ ability to imagine the world: an Ocean, a way of making visible the limit of their understanding.

Write a description (300-500 words) of what a shield representing your world would look like. Tell us what lies at the center: what are the ultimate sources of meaning or value? In what form do you grasp them? What are the realitiesyou must take account of? Is there a perfected version, or an ideal that might contain the harsh facts, and make them tolerable? And finally, what lies at the outer limitof your shield? How would you depict the limits of our own understanding—the thing past which you cannot see?

Your description doesn’t have to be in verse! Instead of artistry, give us thoughtful explanation: why do you choose the things you choose? What do your images tell us about the world as you receive and understand it?

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