Can War Be Beautiful?
Louis Petrich + Erica Beall
The power and beauty of Homer’s imagery in the Iliad is undeniable, and his scenes of battle often prompt vexing questions about ancient and modern virtues. Can killing and dying in war be beautiful? Is a just cause required for glory to be gained? Is war a courageous way of fulfilling human nature and, ultimately, of embracing the reality that death awaits us all? This episode, in which Annapolis host Louis Petrich and tutor Erica Beall delve into the dramatic contrasts that make Homer’s work powerful and war potentially beautiful, invites us to question our own modern perspectives on this ancient text. Those perspectives may reflect Shakespeare’s Trojan War play, Troilus and Cressida, which shows the reality of war as ugly, its fabled glory a concoction of poets that charms men into fighting. And yet Homer’s Iliad remains a perennial favorite of Johnnies, who often return to it multiple times after graduation. In fact, it is the only text in Continuing the Conversation to headline two episodes.
In this Episode
Guest Erica Beall
Erica Beall (A07) is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, she is leading a politics and society seminar and liberal arts preceptorial in the Graduate Institute.
Host Louis Petrich
Louis Petrich is a tutor at St. John’s College. This semester, he is exploring Euripides in freshman seminar, teaching Pascal in freshman laboratory, and leading a philosophy and theology tutorial in the Graduate Institute.
The power and beauty of Homer’s imagery in the Iliad is undeniable, and his scenes of battle often prompt vexing questions about ancient and modern virtues. Can killing and dying in war be beautiful? Is a just cause required for glory to be gained? Is war a courageous way of fulfilling human nature and, ultimately, of embracing the reality that death awaits us all? This episode, in which Annapolis host Louis Petrich and tutor Erica Beall delve into the dramatic contrasts that make Homer’s work powerful and war potentially beautiful, invites us to question our own modern perspectives on this ancient text.
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Continuing the Conversation was funded through the philanthropy of donors to St. John’s College. If you’d like to give to the college’s Annual Fund, your gift will go to support the kinds of inquiry and conversation that comes to life at St. John’s College. It also frees up money for creative projects like this one, which brings great conversation and great books into homes across the world.
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