Course Summary Part 1

Course Summary Part - COURSE SUMMARY PART ONE THE BASIC MYTH OF ORPHEUS The story of Orpheus is most clearly given in the Georgics of Vergil and

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COURSE SUMMARY — PART ONE THE BASIC MYTH OF ORPHEUS The story of Orpheus is most clearly given in the Georgics of Vergil and the Metamorphoses of Ovid . Orpheus is a renowned singer who loses his new bride, Eurydice. So great is his love that he descends into the underworld to retrieve her. With the power of his song, he persuades the infernal gods to release his beloved, but on the condition that he does not look at her until they reach the light of earth. Orpheus, however, does break this law and, in looking back upon Eurydice, loses her a second time. He enters a period of great mourning and renounces love altogether, since no woman can replace Eurydice. In Ovid’s account he pursues young men instead, inflaming the anger of the mothers who consequently kill and dismember him. His head floats down the Hebrus River. According to Vergil, Orpheus continues to sing. When Apollo discovers the severed head, he raises Orpheus and his lyre into the heavens, where it still can be seen as an eternal constellation. SOME IMPLICATIONS The myth of Orpheus broaches a number of important themes: the power of music (to persuade, to overcome death, to tame wildness, to deflect violence, and so forth); the idea of irreplaceable singularity ; the problem of looking , which could be opposed to listening; and the promise of poetic immortality . The various versions of the Orphic myth may deal with any combination of these elements. The combination often produces a dramatic tension, whereby the claims of one idea are challenged by the claims of another. In reading the material devoted to Orpheus, it is useful first to identify these elements, and then to consider how these ideas are modified in different contexts. In the Orphic legend, the power of music is what enables the hero to override the law (for example, the law that the dead remain in the underworld). Mortal existence is existence in history, which unfolds in a strictly linear time. In the Hebrew Bible , the God of Genesis creates time, which gives form to the unformed and content to the unfilled. Creation here means the creation of a beginning. The beginning not only implies an end, but also implies something before the beginning. The singular voice (for example, the voice of God or the voice of Jacob) seems to occupy this site before the beginning (and by implication, after the end). It is the voice that overturns the law that keeps mankind within their mortal, temporal limits. Human time may be opposed in two ways. In other words, there are two types of timelessness: the timeless eternity of unchanging truth or the timelessness of the moment, which happens once and only once. Human time is caught between these two extremes of timelessness, between the infinite and the infinitesimal . The human production of meaning consists fundamentally in the creation of a logos (a speech, an account, a rationale), which unfolds in time and therefore has a beginning, middle, and end. In Greek metaphysics (as described in Diotima’s speech in the
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This test prep was uploaded on 04/07/2008 for the course CONWEST V55.0400 taught by Professor Hamilton during the Fall '07 term at NYU.

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Course Summary Part - COURSE SUMMARY PART ONE THE BASIC MYTH OF ORPHEUS The story of Orpheus is most clearly given in the Georgics of Vergil and

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