16a. THE ODYSSEY READING GUIDE

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In general

  • trace Odysseus' relationships with female characters through the poem (see Odyssey handout)
  • compare Odysseus to other epic heroes (Trojan, Gilgamesh)
  • read the several passages about Agamemnon's return home (Lombardo p. 242, 267 , 343-45,
    • how does that story enhance the story of Odysseus' homecoming?
  • as in the Iliad, look at the similes carefully

Assignment for Fri. 19 Oct.

Lombardo 241-69 [from Books 1, 4]

  • The first four books deal with Telemachos, Odysseus' son.
  • Book 1 is set in on Olympus and on Ithaca at Odysseus' home
    • why is our introduction to Odysseus postponed?
    • how do the gods get involved?
    • what is the problem with the suitors?
    • what is Telemachus like at first?
    • how is Telemachus different after his encounter with Athena?
  • Book 4 is set at Menelaus' palace
    • what are Menelaus and Helen like? what is their relationship like?
    • Menelaus and Helen each tell a story about Odysseus
      • what do we learn about Odysseus from each story?
      • what do we learn about Menelaus and Helen from each story?
    • Menelaus gives further information about his own return, and Agamemnon's, and about Odysseus

Assignment for Mon. 22 Oct.

Lombardo 284-98 [from Books 6, 8]

  • Odysseus in Phaeacia
    • parallels a folktale: stranger does quest, marries princess
      • look at all the marriage talk around Nausicaa
    • how is Odysseus' approach to Nausicaa diplomatic and effective?
    • why does Homer have Odysseus ask the bard to sing about the Trojan Horse?
    • after this tale, Odysseus reveals who he is, and from Books 9-12 narrates his adventures trying to get home from Troy, up to his arrival at Calypso's island

Lombardo 332-38, 342-65 [from Books 11, 12]

  • Odysseus in the underworld
    • we looked before at Homer's version of the underworld--now read it for yourself
    • what useful information does Odysseus get from Tiresias? from his own mother?
    • why does Homer include encounters with Agamemnon, Achilles
  • Odysseus with Circe and wandering
    • Circe instructs him what to expect next
    • why is the Sirens' song particularly tempting for Odysseus?
    • the Cattle of the Sun episode: like Polyphemus episode, an example of men bringing trouble on themselves (see what the gods say about that on p. 242)

Assignment for Wed. 24 Oct.

Lombardo 298-314 [Book 9]

  • Odysseus' men have adventures with the Cicones and the Lotus-Eaters
  • They arrive at the land of the Cyclopes
    • how does Odysseus describe the Cyclopes? their off-shore island?
    • what sort of life does Polyphemus lead?
  • In Polyphemus' cave
    • how is Odysseus a bad guest? how is Polyphemus a bad host?
    • we will compare this story to a folktale (see Odyssey handout)
    • why does Odysseus say his name is "Noman"? How is the lie effective?
    • how does he get himself and his men out of the cave?
  • After escaping the cave
    • how does Odysseus' taunting Polyphemus make things worse for his crew?
    • what is the curse Polyphemus lays on Odysseus?

Assignment for Wed. 24 Oct.

Lombardo 366-88 [from Books 13, 16] 454-65 [Book 23]

  • Odysseus returns to Ithaca
    • his encounter with Athena shows what he is like, and what they think of each other
    • what is Odysseus concerned about?
  • Odysseus and Telemachus meet at the hut of Eumaeus the swineherd
    • are Odysseus and Telemachus alike? what do they think of each other?
    • Odysseus tells a series of lies while he is in Ithaca: why? what kind of lies?
    • what's the plan for dealing with the suitors?

Lombardo 403-39 [from Books 19, 21-22]

  • Odysseus meets Penelope again at last
    • why does he lie to her?
    • how are they alike?
    • what does Homer gain by including the foot-washing episode?
    • the old nurse Eurycleia is the only one who could recognize Odysseus; why does he specifically ask for an old serving woman? (see how Eurycleia adds to the beginning of Book 23)
  • Odysseus and the suitors
    • how are the suitors bad guests?
    • the trick with the bow: it works because this is a composite bow, not a single-piece one. If you know how to string it, it's not difficult; if you don't, it's impossible.
      • Odysseus, as usual, wins through cleverness and knowledge, not brute strength
      • notice that Telemachus comes very close to stringing the bow

Lombardo 454-65 [Book 23]

  • Odysseus and Penelope
    • it is Penelope's turn to trick Odysseus! she makes a good wife for him
    • Homer chooses to add Odysseus' statement that he will need to wander again (p. 462)
    • what parts of Odysseus' journey does Homer choose to include in Odysseus' report to his wife of his wanderings (p. 463-64)


Last updated: 10/9/07

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