On Winged Words: An examination of the use of language in The Iliad to create and access the poetic space

Micole Elizabeth Gauvin


I am a Mathematics and Elementary Education double major, but have always felt drawn to the literary world. Pulled by these words and enabled by the freedom of a liberal arts education, I pursued my interests regardless of their discipline. During a reading-and-writing-intensive summer undergraduate research opportunity, I poured over the work of Homer, Shelley, and others and wrote my own 100+ page paper, in which I explore the strange beauty of poetry, the purpose and presence of language, and the connection between poetry and the soul. This paper serves as the basis of my present proposal. Looking closely at poetic language in The Iliad, our examination takes the conventional sense of poetry a step further to examine its connection to the soul in conjunction with the poet’s (and others’ within the poem) ability to use language and other poetic gestures to create the poetic space. We posit that this poetic space is a psychological place—for, of, and in the soul—which is unlocked by poetic language and in which one can see and interact with the events and people of poetry throughout the years (for example, in this space one can see the language of the poet come to life and illustrate the heroic exploits of Achilleus in the mind’s eye). Specifically, this paper includes close-readings and careful studies of: the proem; the speeches of divine, semi-divine, and mortal figures; and the varying types and forms of language used throughout the poem (i.e./ figurative language, oaths, epithets, similes, etc.). Each of these studies of the language of the poem yields evidence of the poetic space and reveals a common thread that is tied to epistemology. Poetry, then, is a result of experiencing truth and the poetic space informs our knowledge and how we come to know it. In this discussion we find poetic moments, the soul, and truth all inextricably linked. The closer we look at the poetic language of The Iliad, the wider the door to the poetic space opens—all that is left now is to enter it.


Poetic, Iliad, Language

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