By Hermione de Almeida
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Extra resources for Byron and Joyce through Homer: Don Juan and Ulysses
34 Efficient critics Byron and Joyce prove true heirs to that literary form we call epic. Epic has been defined as a formal composition which has drawn into itself the poetry of past ages through many levels (mythical, legendary, historical) of cultural experience. It boasts among its characteristics lucidity of language, little subordination of thought, swiftly balanced movement, the music of the hexameter verse, a constant heroic world, and characters who function in epic purity. 3 5 Virgil took possession of this form and gave it its exalted, 'beautiful style' (as Dante describes it).
4 1 Hence as novelistic, critical reactions to epic tradition, Don Juan and Ulysses must belong in a group of works which includes those by Rabelais, Cervantes, Fielding, and Sterne - works which themselves recall the picaresque mode and the example of Petronius. The following paragraphs will review these writers in turn as they may anticipate Byron and Joyce. It should be noted however that none of these writers' works, nor even the picaresque tradition, forms more than partial precedent for the ultimate effects of Don Juan or Ulysses.
Myths are images of truth, not merely truth in fact- events that actually occurred - but what could or possibly should happen within a set of circumstances. As Joyce says in Finnegans Wake, 'utterly impossible as are all these events they are probably as like those which may have taken place as any others which never took person at all are ever likely to be' (Finnegans Wake, p. 1 10). Myths are universal patterns for life which the modern consciousness can use as a pattern for its art. They are, most of all, of infinite utility.