We’re almost done with the first text we will read for this class, and I’d like to use our last class period (and these discussion boards) to return to our original theme: the way in which fiction creates an image of “the known world.”
How then, can we describe the world of the “Odyssey”? What gives it wholeness, structure or meaning? Given that Odysseus ventures as far as the Underworld, is there anything that lies beyond the boundaries of the knowable? If so, what? What conception of space did the ancient Greeks have? How are the various places Odysseus visits integrated into a larger whole? What about time? How are worlds created in and through time? And what meaning, finally, does the “Odyssey” hold in our own time? Given that our own perception of the world is so vastly different from the Greeks, why is this still such a famous story?
These aren’t easy questions. For one thing, they’re a lot more abstract than the issues we’ve previously discussed on these boards. But that’s what discussion boards are there for: a space to try out ideas and to collectively turn them into something meaningful. So go for it!
In class and through this blog, Odysseus’ validity as a deserving hero has been contested and tried. Mulling all this over, I keep coming back to one central thought (one that doesn’t diss Odysseus quite so much). Mentioned a few times in our class discussions, but usually for a mere minute as not all have heard of it, the hero’s cycle has been a tiny voice in the back of my head throughout my entire rereading of The Odyssey. For those of you who also learned and had drilled into you the steps of the cycle, bear with me for a half a blog post or so. Those not already illuminated to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, read up.
Due date: Rough draft: Friday, September 24, by 5 pm. Final version: Friday, October 8, by 5 pm (note change from original schedule). Please submit both an electronic version (MS-Word compatible) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Length: 4-5 pages, double spaced, standard fonts and margins. Please number your pages and include both your name and mine on the front page or cover sheet. Don’t forget to find a descriptive title! Continue reading
In the Greek language, Odysseus’ name means, “full of wrath.” Interestingly, his cunning, wit, and hubris are most often discussed, and very rarely do we find mention of his anger. Poseidon, on the other hand, rages against Odysseus because he blinded Poseidon’s son, Polyphemus. This deed and similar feats raise Odysseus in the esteem of the listeners during Homer’s time period. Applying this epic to today’s standards, however, brings new issues. Early Christian faith classified sins into seven different categories*, and this view has perpetuated throughout the following centuries until it is so ingrained in our culture that it becomes a shock to read through an open and sensual society such as the Greeks’. Looking at these characters through the lens of modern day ethics becomes a breathtaking view into ancient Greek society’s moral standards. How much have societal morals truly changed in light of right vs. wrong?
Let’s take the Cyclops instance, for example: a man-eating beast with one eye is an unacceptable personage under any circumstances, and to either audience, today or ancient Greece, it’s an abominable image. Hence, when Odysseus, in desperation, skewers and blinds Polyphemus, setting up an almost-comical scene with this great oaf that “fuddle[s]” and “flush[es],” and whose “‘Nohbdy, Nohbdy’s tricked me, Nohbdy’s ruined me!’” draws laughter from both Odysseus and any audience. Consider, though, if Odysseus’ actions are justifiable, and if so, by what morals? Continue reading
If you find yourself still thinking about the rare books we saw in Hesburgh Special Collections today, you should know that you’re not the first people on whom Chapman & Co. have left a lasting impression. Here’s how John Keats commemorated the occasion almost 200 years ago:
From time to time, I’ll be posting some links to outside resources on this blog. Hopefully, you’ll find them interesting! Here’s some Odyssey related stuff:
The Perseus Project (http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/):
Leading digital library on the Greco-Roman world. Contains fully searchable versions of ancient texts as well as photos of archaeological findings.