If, as Shelley asserts, "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world", perhaps the case par excellence is Homer. Somewhere between the 9th and the 8th century BC, he allegedly composed two long poems: the Iliad, an account of the war between Greeks and Trojans, and the Odyssey, which relates the adventures of Odysseus, a Greek warrior returning home after the war.
In many respects, the period we now call Antiquity (ca. 8th century BC - 5th century AD) understood and organized itself with constant reference to these two poems. For more than a millennium, people turned and returned to them for all kinds of purposes: poets found in them an inexhaustible source of plots, themes and characters; rulers and citizens alike were inspired to emulate the Homeric heroes in speech and deed; and military commanders, seafarers and artisans perused them to learn the tricks of their respective trades. Celebrated as the "teacher of the Greeks", Homer subsequently became the educator of the Romans, as his work continued to captivate poets, politicians and people in general.
In this course, we will study Homer's work both from the inside and from the outside. From the inside, we will look at various literary devices used by Homer to convey his ideas (composition, the use of meter, rhythm, similes etc.). From the outside, we will look at the impact of the two poems on Antiquity, by studying several major works from ancient literature that were influenced by Homeric epic. Moreover, we address some questions that have puzzled readers through the ages, such as: who was Homer? Did he really exist at all? And what about the historical accuracy of his poems?
- Homer, The Iliad (translated by Robert Fagles), Penguin, 1998, ISBN 9780140445923.
- Homer, The Odyssey (translated by Robert Fagles), Penguin, 1997, ISBN 9780140268867.
- Further reading materials will be assigned during the course..
- Alberto Manguel, Homer's The Iliad and the Odyssey: A Biography, Atlantic Books, 2007, ISBN 9781843544029.
- Eva Brann, Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad, Paul Dry Books, 2002, ISBN 09697967570.
- Seth Benardete, Achilles and Hector: The Homeric Hero, South Bend, Ind, St. Augustine's Press, 2005, ISBN 1-58731-001-5.
- Seth Benardete, The Bow and the Lyre: A PLatonic Reading of the Odyssey,, Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996, ISBN 0847683672.