E 379N • Homer In Translation-W
11:00 AM-12:30 PM
The major part of this course will be spent reading Homer's two great epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey, studying them in depth and enjoying them thoroughly. Both are indisputably among the greatest works of world literature, and they have achieved and maintained their classic status by continuing to give pleasure, part of which is the pleasure of intellectual challenge. The stories of Achilles' wrath and of Odysseus's wanderings and homecoming are at the same time thrilling and subtle. What they have to say about war, being a hero, and a leader, and about practical intelligence and endurance, curiosity and duplicity, will have lasting impact on whoever reads them with care. Secondary aspects of the courses will be devoted 1) to a sampling of the variety of English translations of Homer since Chapman, and 2) to what we can know about "the Homeric world", meaning both the world depicted in the epics and the world in which they were composed. The world of the Trojan War was already ancient history by Homer's own time, and he stylizes that world to bring out its archaic heroic nature. Homer created his epics (assuming the same person was responsible for both) at the same time that alphabetic writing emerged in Greece. In Homer we can see an oral tradition of poetic composition being exploited and converted to a craft of writing that eventually undermined and replaced oral composition. Were the Homeric poems originally oral in their actual making (and Homer therefore technically illiterate), or was the new technology of writing an essential part of the process, enabling the use of the old techniques of oral composition but in a new, self-conscious and more powerful way?
Oral Report, 20%; Class discussion, 15%; Two 5-page papers, 20% each; One 6-page paper, 25%
Homer's Iliad and Odyssey