Understanding the Odyssey: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents

Understanding the Odyssey: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents

Understanding the Odyssey: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents

Understanding the Odyssey: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historic Documents

Synopsis

For thousands of years, The Odyssey has resonated throughout the Western world. Homer has been an original source of inspiration to writers, painters, sculptors, and filmmakers, as well as a vital source of information about the mythology, history, and culture of ancient Greece. This casebook uniquely blends commentary and primary documents, situating the epic within historical contexts that are important for students to understand.

The literary analysis chapter is ideal for readers coming to The Odyssey for the first time, introducing the work with a chronology of events and identification of major characters and themes. Topical chapters carefully consider matters of mythology, geography, archeology, and class issues pertinent to The Odyssey. Excerpts from classical and scholarly sources, including Herodotus, Plato, Thucydides, and Bulfinch, help students understand the historical framework, and materials from government documents and newspaper accounts help students make connections between The Odyssey's thematic ideas and current events, such as the September 11th attacks and the ongoing conflict in Ireland.

Excerpt

Homer's epic, The Odyssey, composed in Greece around the eighth century B.C., has resonated throughout the Western world for over 2,700 years, as few other works of literature have. Its title long ago became synonymous with the adventure-filled journey of a single hero, whether real or fictional, profound or mundane. Few literary odysseys or journeys have failed to draw on the ancient story of Odysseus, literally or metaphorically depicting engaging giants and monsters, the resisting of sirens and other temptresses, or a descent to the land of the dead.

It is difficult to overstate the influence of The Odyssey. The Greeks gave Homer the stature of a god and treated his works as sacred texts. Homer was the primary source for playwrights of classical Greece in the fifth century B.C., one of the two or three most illustrious periods of Western drama. Alexander the Great was just the first of many larger-than-life soldiers inspired by the warriors in Homer's epics. Homer's influence is also to be found in classical literary masterpieces of other countries: Virgil's Aenead, Dante's Divine Comedy, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and even in Mark Twain's antiheroic saga, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In the twentieth-century novel Ulysses, regarded as one of the most important works of fiction in modern English, the Irish novelist James Joyce takes his title, incidents, and themes from Homer's classic, transporting and translating them to modern-day Dublin. Charles Frazier's 1997 publishing phenomenon, the novel Cold Mountain, which sold 2.8 million copies, was also the story of a returning warrior, this time a wounded Confederate sol-

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