Gods, Men and Their Gifts: a Comparison of the "Iliad", the "Odyssey", the "Aeneid" and "Paradise Lost"
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Comparative Literature (Interdepartmental Program)
Robert J. Edgeworth
This dissertation is an examination of the Iliad, the Odyssey, the Aeneid and Paradise Lost based upon their similar depictions of gods and men, specifically in regard to their use of gifts. The procedure is lexical and thematic in approach. The word group around which the majority of the evidence is centered is the noun 'gift' and the verb 'to give.' The nature and use of gifts is examined in the four works under consideration. However, the evidence for the notion of gift-giving is not limited by a strict positivistic approach. Evidence from the texts that clearly includes the notion of gift giving is also supplied, though the terms are lacking. The themes which recur in this work are as follows: theodicy, the justification of God's ways and gifts; the obligatory nature of gifts versus a conception of free gifts; the nature of the epic description of the divine-human relationship. The Introduction presents the challenge from Milton to compare his work to the ancient classical works. Each of the major works is then presented in an individual chapter. There then follows a chapter comparing the evidence from each epic. A concluding chapter summarizes the comparison and contrasts. I acknowledge modern scholarship and often challenge the views of certain scholars, not only regarding some of their interpretations of these works, but most of all regarding the terms of discussion that are assumed when discussing epics. I assume that works which are given great reverence, such as these, must be allowed to guide the formulation of the questions we ask of them. The terms 'gift' and 'giving' define the limits of classical epic and serve to explain the divine-human relationship which they all assume exists. I conclude that Milton has received the language and structure of gift-giving from classical epic and has transformed them by inserting his God into that language and structure. Gift-giving language and gift-giving structures must be transformed by Milton's action, for His God is far more consistent and rational than the gods of classical epic.
Anderson, Paul Norman, "Gods, Men and Their Gifts: a Comparison of the "Iliad", the "Odyssey", the "Aeneid" and "Paradise Lost"" (2000). LSU Historical Dissertations and Theses. 7138.