CLAS 424 A: The Epic Tradition

Meeting Time: 
TTh 10:30am - 12:20pm
CMU B006
Joint Sections: 
C LIT 424 A
Olga Levaniouk

Syllabus Description:

Course Description:


This autumn’s Epic Tradition course will be an in-depth look at the Iliad and the Odyssey, their contexts and their background. Have you read the Iliad and the Odyssey and think you know what they are all about? You may be surprised to find out what’s lost in translation, what’s just under the surface, what was obvious to the ancient Greeks but is news to us, and how much there is still to discover. Have you never read Homer? The goal of this course is to make your first experience with Greek epic both more accessible and more interesting than you would have on your own. Apart from reading and discussing the poems, we’ll talk about the mythology of the Trojan war, what archaeology can tell us about Homer, how Homeric poetry was composed, performed, and passed down in Ancient Greece, how it survived for us to read, why there is still so much disagreement about it, how you can go about doing research on it, and many other subjects. The basis for the course will be reading and discussion: fundamentally, in this class we’ll gather to talk about Homer, ask and answer questions, debate difficult points and try out different approaches to solving them. The students’ main task is to read the epics and come to class with thoughts and questions. In addition, there will be some mini-lectures, videos, and podcasts to discuss, and some carefully selected articles or book chapters about Homer to read. Along the way, we’ll take a brief look at some modern works of fiction and poetry inspired by the Iliad and the Odyssey.


Two quizzes: 10% each

Test One: 20%

Test Two: 20%

Writing assignment: 15%

Class participation: 15%

Discussion leading: 10%

(Each student will be responsible for taking the lead in discussion on one occasion—that is, of reading one assignment with special care and thinking of some questions/subjects to discuss with peers--the task is to get the discussion going rather than to give a report).

No prerequisites.

Required books:

The Iliad, Homer. Translated by Stanley Lombardo, introduction by Sheila Murnaghan. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. Co., 1997. (or another translation)


The Odyssey, Homer. Translated by Robert Fitzgerald, introduction by Carne-Ross. Farrar,  Straus and Giroux Pub. 1998. (or another translation, though I much prefer this one).


All other readings/study materials will be made available online.

Catalog Description: 
Ancient and medieval epic and heroic poetry of Europe in English: the Iliad, Odyssey, and Aeneid; the Roland or a comparable work from the medieval oral tradition; pre-Greek forerunners, other Greco-Roman literary epics, and later medieval and Renaissance developments and adaptations of the genre. Choice of reading material varies according to instructor's preference. Offered: jointly with C LIT 424.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 11:14am