Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
~from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman
I couldn’t help but notice that after I posted about reading more nonfiction, I posted about beginning The Iliad. So it goes.
Thinking about Whitman also gets me thinking about his catalogues and lists. This technique is central to some of his work including Song of Myself. Typically, I’ve been a scanner of things like the “begats,” but after reading Book Two of The Iliad, I’ve thought about listing as a literary technique a little differently.
The list can be pragmatic in its connection to the everyday. It can also lend a sense of history, almost like a timeline. Along with these connections, I noticed that Book Two’s large lists of warriors also had an emotional quality. Various warriors are discussed personally, their families are mentioned, and even details about their hometowns are mentioned in detail. In a sense, this use of the list is like Whitman’s inclusionary vision of a democratic United States. It puts a face to something faceless like “workers” or “soldiers.”
I figure I can find or create some writing prompts using lists of likes/dislikes, friends, family, etc.