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GREEK 520 A: Seminar

Meeting Time: 
TTh 4:00pm - 5:50pm
DEN 257
Olga Levaniouk
Olga Levaniouk

Syllabus Description:


Prof. Olga Levaniouk

TTh 4-5:50 pm Denny 257


This year's Homer seminar will be devoted to the Iliad. We will aim to read all the books on the PhD reading list. If we are lucky, we might be able to add (or substitute) a couple of extra books, by popular demand. The idea is for the students to get over the “Homer hump,” pick up speed, and become comfortable with epic diction.  As we read, we will discuss the Iliad both in its specifics and as an example of oral traditional poetry in Ancient Greece. The initial focus will be on the mechanics of Homeric diction, poetics, performance, and myth-making.  Each class will be divided into the parts: slow reading and fast reading/general discussion. In the first part, we’ll zoom in to look at a small bit of text very closely. This will be the time for the nitty-gritty of Homeric grammar, meter, language, textual problems and anything else that comes up in the process of slow reading. In the second part, we’ll change to a wide-angle lens to talk about more general questions brought up by each book and the poem as a whole.


Some of the books below are available online, in pdf format, etc. You are not required to purchase any of them, but please make sure that you have easy access to a critical edition of the Iliad (editions lacking apparatus criticus are not suitable) and a good dictionary.

Allen, T. Homeri Opera I-IV. first edition 1902, countless reprints. Still the best print

edition in my opinion. West’s new Teubner edition of the Iliad (Homeri Ilias, vol. I 1998, vol. II 2001) is useful for purposes of comparison and has a good apparatus criticus, but is an inferior text.

Bierl, A. and Latacz, J. Homer’s Iliad. The Basel Commentary: Prolegomena. De Gruyter 2015.

(contains R. Wachter’s Grammar of Homeric Greek, which is concise and useful especially on adaptations to meter; it by no means replaces Chantraine)

Cunliffe, R. A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect. Norman 1977.  A handy dictionary considerably

more up to date than LSJ; can be very useful especially for those who do not have much experience with Homer.

Chantraine, P. Grammaire Homérique. Paris 1958. Remains the best grammar of Homeric Greek;

nothing comparable exists in English.

D. Gary Miller, Ancient Greek Dialects and Early Authors. De Gruyter, 2014. Useful on the hexameter and Homeric language. Link

Lord. A. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge Mass. 1960/2000. Both a classic and a

source of endless controversy; all those who study Homer seriously should read it

for themselves. Especially important is the first part (which does not deal with

Homer directly).

Nagy, G. Homeric Questions. Austin 1996. This is what yours truly would choose as a guide to

crucial and basic (but disputed) questions of Homeric scholarship.


Kirk, G. gen. ed. The Iliad: A Commentary. Cambridge 1985.

Bierl, A. and Latacz, J. Homer’s Iliad. The Basel Commentary. De Gruyter 2015-.

Prolego mena, Books III, VI, XIV, XVI, XIX, and XIV are available in English.

Bierl, A. and Latacz, J. Homers Iliad. Gesamtkommentar. München 2000-. The original (and full) version of the above.

Nagy, G. , Frame, D., Muellner, L. A sampling of Comments on the Iliad and Odyssey  (parts of A Homer Commentary in Progress):   



Two in-class presentations, one of them an informal discussion-leading exercise on a secondary reading and one more formal on the subject of your paper (shoot for about 20 minutes for the latter presentation).

A research paper of ca. 10-15 pages (due March 20, 2019, via e-mail)



primary readings:

  • zooming out: at least one book a week, ideally two; read in translation what you cannot finish in the original
  • zooming in: read the selected passages very carefully, making sure you can account for the meter and all grammatical forms; bring your questions to class

secondary readings:

  • aim to at least take a look at one book/article per week, either chosen from the recommendations below or of your own choice
  • be prepared to answer (briefly) what you read and what you were able to get out of it

Week 1           

            January 8        Introduction, begin Iliad 1

            January 10      NO CLASS

Week 2           Iliad 1-2

January 15:          Iliad  1; zooming in: Iliad 1.1-42

January 17:          Iliad 2; zooming in: Iliad 2. 182-242

    Nagy, Greek Mythology and Poetics. Ithaca and London 1992. Chapter  2, pages 18-35: "Formula and Meter: the Oral Poetics of Homer." Link

    D. Elmer, The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making in the Iliad. Johns Hopkins 2013. Chapter 3: “Achilles and the Crisis of Exception,” pages 63-85 Link

    D. Elmer, The Poetics of Consent: Collective Decision Making in the Iliad.   Johns Hopkins 2013. Chapter 4: “Social Order and Poetic Order,” pages 86-104. Link

    G. Nagy, Homer the Classic. Cambridge 2009. Chapter 1.s1-s5, pages 73-104 ("An esthetics of rigidity") Link

    A. Haft,  "Odysseus' wrath and grief in the Iliad: Agamemnon, the Ithacan King and the Sack of Troy in Book 2, 4, and 14. The Classical Journal 85 (1990) 97-114. Link


    Week 3           Iliad 3 -4

    January 22: Iliad 3       zooming in: Iliad 3.1-37, 3.395-420.

    January 24: Iliad 4      zooming in: Iliad 4.126-182.


    R. Martin, "Keens from the absent chorus: Troy to Ulster." Western Folklore 62 (2003) 119-142.

    R. Blondell, Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation. Oxford 2013. Chapter 2: “Helen, Daughter of Zeus”  Link

    R. Blondell, Helen of Troy: Beauty, Myth, Devastation. Oxford 2013. Chapter 3: “Disarming Beauty: the Iliad.”  Link                      

    Muellner, L. "The Simile of the Cranes and Pygmies: A Study of Homeric Metaphor." HSCP 93 (1990) 59-101. Link

    S. Jamison,  “Draupadi on the Walls of Troy.” Classical Antiquity 13 (1994) 5-16. Link

    C. Tsagalis, The Oral Palimpsest: Exploring intertextuality in the Homeric Epics. HUP 2008. Chapter 6: "Viewing from the walls, viewing Helen: language and indeterminacy in the 'Teichoscopia'". Link

    J. Ready, Character, Narrator, and Simile in the Iliad. Cambridge 2011. Chapter 4. "Sequences of Similes int he Character-Text." Link




    Useful links:

    Classical Inquiries:

    “The Chicago Homer”

    A dated, but conveniently organized bibliography:

    Listen to Homer recited:

    or sung:

    Some good lectures online:

    1. Palaima at National Hellenic Museum

    Lecture Series - Thomas Palaima

    1. Nagy and L. Muellner, “Intro to Homeric Greek: Poetry of Grammar, Iliad 1-9.” Link


    Last updated: 
    October 17, 2018 - 9:12pm