Tuesday, 1 August 2006


Did I mention that the first book in both the second & third year English subjects I'm teaching at Mildura this semester is The Odyssey? I think I may have done; I don't remember telling you though that a) the two groups are basically made up of the same students and b) each subject has two weeks on the poem, but they're staggered. So we basically have three weeks x four hours of discussion solely devoted to The Odyssey before going on to other stuff.

I have been worrying that the poor people would get very bored with Homer. But after today I'm not worried anymore: there was love in the air today, infatuation and surprised wonderment. It's going to be good.


Uccellina said...

In high school I hated the Iliad, loved the Odyssey, hated the Aeneid. There's something about that story that grabs you, even at that age. Perhaps students relate to feeling adrift?

genevieve said...

Laura, I agonised over purchasing an edition a while back - what translation are you using?

Another Outspoken Female said...

Oh the wine dark sea :)

Loved The Odyssey. It was part of classical studies, not english, at school.

Ampersand Duck said...

I re-read the Odyssey last year to freshen up my head and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I've just finished Margaret Atwood's The Penelopiad, which is a great book to recommend anyone who feels sorry for Penelope, and another wonderful spin-off is C.P. Cavafy's poem 'Ithaka' (which is the best poem ever to read at a wedding -- as long as you can get a nervous tongue around 'Laistrygonians'!).

(sorry if I'm telling you something you already know!)

Fyodor said...

Greece is the word.

Armaniac said...

Read it while on my first trip to greece, staying in a beautiful white painted room on the edge of a cliff overlooking a northern bay on Icaria.

A top read. I have put a couple of friends from the lord of the rings set onto it.

Short highlights:

Some of the best fight scenes ever written,

Being held as the sex slave of a goddess for years (I named my second car Calypso in her honour),

Incredible monsters,

High level of detail regarding cultural practices, such as placement of thresholds and rituals involving mixing wine and water, and having guests stripped and rubbed down with olive oil,

etc etc, sex and violence from wo to no, that's how you sell it to male students anyway.

TimT said...

How could anyone get tired of The Odyssey? I wouldn't be worried, students will love it.

I seem to recall that the Odyssey ended rather gruesomely, and just this year, I read a 1950's (or thereabouts) children's translation, which disappointed me greatly, as it missed out on that gruesome stuff.

Armaniac said...

Anyone who pasteurises the Odyssey deserves to be thrown to the medusa.

TimT said...

Oh, it wasn't so bad. It was a good children's translation, a little like Grimms or Lang's fairytales; it didn't condescend to readers, and preserved the textual richness.

The general idea was to put the Odyssey in a novel format.

Kate said...

*coughs* Never read it. But I will! One day! After I read 'The Vivisector' even!

Helen said...

each subject has two weeks on the poem, but they're staggered.

As in, hugely impressed? (Boom-tish!)

tigtog said...

I was given the Robert Fagles translation of both the Iliad and the Odyssey for Xmas a few years back. I find him more accessible than Pope or Rees and generally enjoy verse more than the prose translations.

I only dip into them every now and then for some vivid imagery, mind. I've never yet sat down and read from start to finish systematically.

Which translation are you using?

Lucy Tartan said...

Hi Uccelina. "Perhaps they relate to feeling adrift." Yes, I think so. Perhaps they relate to looking for your father and holding off the suitors, too - I hope they do.

duckie, thank you, thank you for the Atwood and the Cavafy tips, I can make good use of them.

Armaniac, you're making me very jealous with just thinking about reading the Odyssey while looking out over greek islands.

The translation we're using is by Robert Fitzgerald. I hadn't read it before, and it's great. Very free and easy. The one I knew was Richmond Lattimore's and it's really good for giving you the goosebumps about archaic ritual sorts of things. But this Fitzgerald one is good and savage.

Pavlov's Cat said...

The Fitzgerald translation is the one I know. Still got it somewhere -- I might dig it out and read it again.

&D is 100% correct about 'Ithaka', one of the great modern poems. 'Ithaka has given you the beautiful journey. / Without it you would not have set out. / Ithaka has no more to give you now.'

Ampersand Duck said...

*sigh* I love that poem.

genevieve said...

Savage, eh? Sounds like the ticket. Found mine and it is Lattimore. All I could remember at the end of the day was the agonising - clearly I needed a recommendation and was too lazy to go get one.

Suse said...

I don't like the Iliad, but love the Odyssey. Although you do have to get an accessible translation. Fagles and Lattimore are both good.

My eldest son (aged 12) has read three different children's/teen versions and loves comparing them.

Must look up Margaret Atwood's Penelopeiad! I've written several papers on Penelope over the past couple of years ...

Armaniac said...

"Armaniac, you're making me very jealous with just thinking about reading the Odyssey while looking out over greek islands. "

I'm making ME jealous.

I had this spot, in the open restaurant/bar next door that was always 3/4 empty, where i'd go for brunch after a morning swim in the bay, I'd have an iced bottle of Fix beer and a huge greek salad and read while leaning against the railing overlooking the sea. And yes, in the distance, there was a church with a light blue dome.

Icaria, the great undiscovered, with 2 of lonely planet's top 5 beaches of Greece and a long history of left wing activism- what more could you ask for??!

Armaniac said...



Anna Winter said...

Have you seen this? It looks at the theory that Homer was really a woman.


TimT said...

Anna, that's fascinating!

I see it doesn't take the clumsy line that 'The Odyssey is simply a composite of different lyrics from different composers', which I'd disagree with. There's a clear structure and coherent narrative in The Odyssey, an artistic sense to the whole that guarantees the coherent structure isn't simply the result of somebody (ie, Homer) being there historically. And Odysseus, above all, is just such a brilliantly formed character; (I like to think of him as one of the first great comic characters, since he moves so quickly from despair to elation, has such a quick wit, etc) - I think there HAS to be ONE great writer who did The Odyssey.

Nobody can prove, obviously, that the writer was male or female - I think the point they raised in that article that the writer of The Odyssey was familiar with at-home life coincides in an interesting way with the Grecian tradition that Homer was blind. (One would think that would put a stop to any venturings around Greece or abroad, and limit him to a more homebound - and, perhaps, more artistic-bound - life).

Was Homer a woman? Who knows!

Anonymous said...

If you don't like The Iliad, try Christopher Logue. You may not be the same again.

- barista