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Helen and the Power of Erotic Love: From Homeric Contemplation to Hollywood Fantasy

Hanna M. Roisman
College Literature
Vol. 35, No. 4, Homer: Analysis & Influence (Fall, 2008), pp. 127-150
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25114378
Page Count: 24
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Helen and the Power of Erotic Love: From Homeric Contemplation to Hollywood Fantasy
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Abstract

The Benioff-Petersen 2004 movie Troy is the latest in a series of films that feature the world famous lovers Helen and Paris. The film acknowledges its debt to Homer's Iliad but, like ancient works before, freely adapts source material to its own vision and aims. This paper compares Benioff-Petersen's treatment of Helen with that of the Iliad emphasizing the difference in the two works' characterization of Helen, which is anchored in their fundamentally different conceptions of love and, with this, of the type of woman who inspires and is inspired by it. In both, the story of Helen's elopement with Paris and of the war it engendered is a story of passion. In both, erotic love is an all-powerful emotion, and Helen is drawn as simultaneously arousing it and being carried away by it. But here the similarities end. The Iliad offers a contemplation of the nature of this love, Troy a fantasy of it. The two Helens are drawn accordingly.

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