Over the course of the 2018-2019 academic year, I realized that many of my undergraduate students at Lesley do not know Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. While both epics used to be assumed in the canon and thus in the high school curriculum, many undergraduate students now have read only excerpts, if anything, from them. Both epics are touchstones for all of literature — not just for obvious descendants like Joyce’s Ulysses or Walcott’s Omeros, but for any narratives that include children growing up, long-lasting marriages, war, issues around masculinity and heroism, issues around femininity and agency, or humanity’s relationship to the spiritual and the supernatural (which is to say: pretty much everything).
Originally, I had thought that a summer reading group could attempt both of these behemoths, but soon realized that would be a chore rather than a pleasure. The Iliad will have to wait. So — THE INVITATION:
SUMMER READING GROUP ON HOMER’S ODYSSEY
Spend part of the summer (re?)reading Homer’s Odyssey with a low-key online book group loosely affiliated with Lesley University and managed through The Massachusetts Medievalist. From the end of May to the beginning of August, group members will read Homer’s epic in 4-book sections. There are no writing assignments, expectations, grades, or credit – just a virtual group of interested people reading and thinking about the epic.
To join the group, follow @MDockrayMiller on Twitter and also check #LesleyHomer on Twitter for reminders/updates about group activities. I’m working with the tech people from Humanities Commons to figure out how to add an email alert/subscription option to this Massachusetts Medievalist blog (updates and details to follow soon, I hope!).
Group members can work with any translation of The Odyssey they prefer, although it should be a poetic rather than a prose translation. I’ll be using both the Fagles (1996) and Wilson (2017) translations. If you’re an audio book fan, note that the fabulous Derek Jacobi voiced the audio book for the Fagles translation. And remember that all these materials are available through Lesley’s Sherrill Library as well your local library! You don’t need to buy anything–
My introductory comments for each set of four books will be posted on dates noted; group members can choose to read that post before or after reading the text, whichever makes more sense for them. The comments section will be open for asynchronous discussion, comments, and questions as soon as the intro is posted. I’ll monitor comments regularly throughout the summer, answering questions, suggesting potential secondary readings, and trying to shepherd all of us as we make our way through this incredibly important and deeply problematic cornerstone of literary tradition.
Please join me on this literary odyssey (did you see what I did there??):
1-4: intro post loaded Monday 28 May
5-8: intro post loaded Monday 11 June
9-12: intro post uploaded Sunday 24 June
13-16: intro post uploaded Monday 9 July
17-20: intro post uploaded Monday 23 July
21-24: intro post uploaded Monday 6 August