Academic journal article African American Review

Preface

Academic journal article African American Review

Preface

Article excerpt

A word about the genesis of "circumspect penelope regards ragged odysseus is, I think, in order. As an honors student at Howard University in the sixties, I studied the classics. Later on I re-read Lattimore's translation of Homer's two epics: The Iliad and The Odyssey.

In 1988 I returned to Iowa for a Writers' Fellowship. In a function held in Sambaugh Hall, the house of the Honors students, I got to talking to a bright Honors student by the name of Lori Brandt. I told her that many teachers of those classics miss Homer's main point. Whilst scholars seek the Golden Fleece, the then backward Trojans, trainers of horses, sought beauty and enlightenment--in short, civilization--their new generation leader-to-be, represented by Paris, went to Greece, and bodily carried away the Greeks' paragon of beauty, grace, and culture, Helen. On a symbolic level, the Trojans had sought, as early as then, to steal the fire of civilization from the Achaians, representing Western Europe. Had King Menelaus let Helen go, Eastern Europe would have been as well developed as Western Europe by now. So I promised Lori that I would develop that theme for a paper for her Honors magazine.

But when I started preparing the paper, I realized that there was an important sub-text to account for: the trials and tribulations of Penelope, Odysseus's wife. Married early, then left to tend little Telemachus, she, the wife of a soldier missing in action, was besieged by Athen's best suitors--the men who do not go to war but feast on heroes' wealth. …

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