The Fugitive: Murder and Exile in the Age of Heroes
Kim, Eunice Seungyeon
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This dissertation examines fugitive murderers and the conceptual functions they fulfill in Homeric poetry. The story pattern of the fugitive murderer is a background against which the Homeric poems consistently portray Achilles’ and Odysseus’ characters, and offers a new framework for understanding the Iliad’s and Odyssey’s poetics and politics. Through close readings of the epics and by employing ideas drawn from anthropological, legal, and political theory, I show how Homeric fugitive murderers refract concerns about the relationship between violence and displacement (on poetic, ritual, moral, and legal levels) that affect our current understanding of the Iliad’s and Odyssey’s drama. Fugitive murderers regularly cluster around Achilles and Odysseus in a way that focalizes their respective character arcs, framing their roles as akin to that of a fugitive murderer. In both cases, the heroes undergo a conceptual transformation from a fugitive murderer into a more productive type of figure: a host in the case of Achilles and a founder in the case of Odysseus. In facilitating these transformations, fugitive murderers also negotiate a compromise between different mythological traditions that closely associate Achilles and Odysseus with the fugitive-murderer type. Thus by revealing a complex view of homicidal violence both as a threat to community and as a force of conciliatory exchange, this study not only contributes to current scholarship on Homeric poetry and early Greek myth, but also intersects with recent critical interest concerning the place of violence in theories of political order and global displacement.