Expanding the project: can we take Homer out of the laboratory?

Published on: Author: Mark Erickson Leave a comment

After a summer break and a bracing return to work it is time to consider how to move this projects forward. I am looking for a method that allows social investigators to ‘escape’ from entrenched conceptual schemes, but retains some purchase on the objects under investigation. Homer’s Iliad helped me to do that in the laboratory, but I have to recognise that some of that was due to the synergy between the bucolic similes that Homer deploys, particularly at the height of battle scenes, and the subject matter of the microbiology lab, which we could loosely call ‘nature’. But where the objects of inquiry are different, what can we do?

One line of inquiry is to consider using Homer’s method, not just Homer’s content, as inspiration for constructing our own texts that describe the reality we are perceiving. Again, this will entail us ‘becoming Homer’, something that is clearly not possible. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try: failing at an enterprise can be more instructive than succeeding at times.

I will pursue this by considering two of Homer’s main ‘tools’ deployed in the construction of their account: parataxis and simile. The second is familiar to all of us, like a well-worn toothbrush. The former is, perhaps, more esoteric although, as we shall see, this doesn’t make it more acceptable to many literary critics.

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