Repeat the Past, Break the Future

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A god does not intervene. A mortal dies. Things happen repeatedly, then suddenly they differ. That rhythm of action, which combines repetition with asymmetry, is the rhythm of Homeric narrative and of the Homeric style. And it is designed to hold you in its spell as much as the rhythm of a line: the beat of repetition tells you this must happen, then, behold a wonder, it does not.

Oxford researcher Colin Burrow reviews a new translation of Homer’s Iliad at the London Review of Books. Burrow takes a new angle on repetition in the epic: that the Iliad uses (and breaks) its patterns of repetition to show the narrative’s slippery grasp on a character’s fate.


Michelle Vider is a writer based in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared/is forthcoming in The Toast, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Atlas and Alice, Baldhip Magazine, and others. Find her at michellevider.com or @meanchelled. More from this author →