Creative Writing and Critical Reading Exercise: Homeric Epic Similes (Homer's Iliad – Translated by Robert Fagles)

Order Instructions/Description

For this assignment, you will need to follow the steps below regarding a compositional feature of Homer’s Iliad that we’ve discussed, the extended comparisons known as epic similes. Please aim at apt comparisons; please provide supporting details that create flavor or mood (connotations) that make the whole comparison individualized or specifically appropriate. I’m also asking for exposition, explanations of how the similes work in direct (denotative, literal) as well as indirect (connotative, metaphorical) ways.

First: Find one of Homer’s epic similes in The Iliad that you would like to revise into a more modern version. You have to keep some sort of connection to the different parts of the comparison, but otherwise please bring the comparison up to date.

For example, if the original simile compares a warrior to a lion, then perhaps you would want to switch “warrior” to “athlete” or “soldier” or something appropriate. And so forth.

Step 1A, then, is to find and type out in full the epic simile you would like to imitate. The simile should be at least 7 lines long. Give the book and line references with your selected simile.

Step 1B, then, will be to write out a short paragraph of exposition, explaining
how the epic simile works directly and indirectly. Point out the basic comparison being made as well as the flavor or mood of that comparison.

Second: Step 2A. Now imitate and modernize that epic simile you typed out.
Transform most of the details, but keep the bones of the comparison so that I can see you’ve changed the original into something new.

Step 2B, then, will be to write out a short paragraph of exposition, explaining
how the new epic simile works directly and indirectly. Point out the basic
comparison being made as well as the flavor or mood of that comparison.

Third: Now, write your own simile, at least 7 full lines in length (though longer can be fun), on one of the following topics:

you as a student compared to ______________________
you as a cook compared to _____________________
you in the early morning compared to _______________________
you as a reader compared to ____________________________
you doing something you are good at compared to ___________________

[or some other possibly humorous or serious situation]

Step 3B, then, will be to write out a short paragraph of exposition, explaining how the epic simile works directly and indirectly. Point out the basic comparison being made as well as the flavor or mood of that comparison.

-4. Bonus Points:

Step 4A, then . . . Write another epic simile of your own imagining, at least 8 lines long, and on a subject of your own choosing—or write such a sonnet (that 14- line Shakespearean favorite that you’ll find in Raffel’s How to Read a Poem).

Step 4B, then, will be to write out a short paragraph of exposition, explaining how the epic simile or sonnet works directly and indirectly

**Reminder: Here is a sample epic simile. This is my example, and you can’t use it for #1 and #2.

Homer, The Iliad: Book 11.580-586 (pages 312-313):
Wild as a swollen river hurling down on the flats,
Down from the hills in winter spate, bursting its banks
With rain from storming Zeus, and stands of good dry oak,
Whole forests of pine it whorls into itself and sweeps along
Till it heaves a crashing mass of driftwood out to sea—
So glorious Ajax swept the field, routing Trojans,
Shattering teams and spearmen in his onslaught.
Imitation/Modernization?
I started modernizing, keeping the opening as my guide, but then I’m not sure what to do.
Perhaps you can help me.
Wild as a swollen river hurling down on the flats,
Down from the hills in winter spate, bursting its banks
With rain from storming El Nino, and houses, well-built,
Whole neighborhoods, houses and cars, all swept up
Till the crashing mass of debris is shaped into a great pile
So . . .

[Or]
Wild as the anarchic traffic shoving its way down to the flats,
Down from the SF hills jammed by rush hour, this mass of drivers
Undaunted, unslowed by the masses on the main thoroughfares,
Riding over sidewalks and through stop-signs, all pushing
Till the aggressive pack of cars brought all of the streets to a standstill—
So glorious Ajax pushed down the escalator, shoving BART riders aside rudely,
Creating havoc and gridlock in his rush for the last train out of the station.