GREEK 520: THE ODYSSEY
TTh 2:30-4:20pm via zoom.
This year's Homer seminar will be devoted entirely to the Odyssey. The plan is to read most of the books on the PhD reading list plus some that are not and to go as in-depth as we can, hard though it is to do anything in-depth in ten weeks. We will try to strike a balance between looking at the (countless) questions specific to the Odyssey and considering the poem as a manifestation of the broader phenomenon of oral traditional poetry in the Ancient Greece. The initial focus will be on the mechanics of Homeric diction, poetics, performance, and myth-making.
- Allen, T. Homeri Opera III-IV. (first edition 1902, countless reprints) is still the best
edition in my opinion, but any edition with an apparatus criticus is fine.
- Cunliffe, R. A Lexicon of the Homeric Dialect. (Norman 1977, expanded edition 2012) can be useful especially for those who do not have much experience with Homer.
- Chantraine, P. Grammaire Homérique. (Paris 1958) remains the best grammar; nothing
comparable exists in English. What is available in English will be made available in pdf form on the the course site.
- Lord. A. The Singer of Tales. Cambridge (Mass. 1960/2000) is 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
- positive contributions to seminar discussion
- short responses:
before every live class (i.e. by TTh by 2:30) you are asked to submit a short (150 word minimum) written responses to the reading for that day on Canvas. One or more of these responses can form the basis for the paper. You have two options:
a) a free response, in which you comment on any aspect of the text of interest to you
b) a prompted response: I’ll provide a question for you to consider/react to in your comment - it is completely optional but will be there for you to ponder if case you are not sure what to write about
- a 10-minute in-class presentation on the subject of your paper (in Week 10 of the quarter)
- the paper itself, ca. 10 pages in length.
Please schedule a meeting with me in weeks three or four of the seminar to discuss your paper.
Note on the paper and presentation:
I want to take into consideration the fact that times are difficult and that people are differently affected by our current reality. So, this quarter, exceptionally, I will make provisions for papers that deviate somewhat from the usual seminar requirements.
I encourage you write a great academic paper—after all, that’s part of what you are training for. I hope you’ll find a question that holds your attention, research it, and write about it. In this case, my only requirement is that the paper be about the Odyssey.
But: if you find yourself unable to pull together a research paper and presentation, there are some other options, all of them also excellent as far as I am concerned.
a) An information-gathering and systematizing paper. This does not require you to come up with an original idea and make an argument for it but only to gather some information about a subject and present it systematically. The subject you choose should be something of general usefulness and of a relatively technical nature. In other words, I would like you to focus on the facts rather than other people’s opinions. You could pull together a ten-page primer on Homeric hexameter (ten pages is not enough space for that, but you could cover the basics) or the nominal cases (yes, they are fascinating) or infinitives, or prepositions, or particles or uses of the subjunctive. Many options here: the dialectal mixture, scholia, papyri, formulaics, book divisions, archaeology of Ithaca—and, of course, you can come up with your own subject. I am happy to help with technical matters and make suggestion re. sources of information.
b) Word study. I remain firmly convinced that the world would be a better place if we all did more word-studies. So, pick your favorite Homeric word (or a couple) and make it your baby: tell me about its etymology, its meaning, its connotations, everything you can find out about it. You don’t have to say anything new about your word or revise what previous scholarship has concluded. You may, of course, but you don’t have to —I promise you’ll learn a lot by just by gathering the information. A further step, for those who are interested: compare two near-synonymous words—can you determine a clear(er) difference?
c) Self-reflection. Pull together all of your 150-words responses and do a retrospective analysis of them. Have any of your opinions changed? Do any themes/subjects of interest emerge? If you had it in you right now to write a paper, what do you think it would be about, based on your responses? Do you have any initial thoughts on that subject?