“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy.
Many cities of men he saw and learned their minds,
many pains he suffered, heartsick on the open sea,
fighting to save his life and bring his comrades home.”
Homer’s Odyssey is the original tale of longing for and coming home. The hero Odysseus has been away from his kingdom on the island of Ithaca for almost twenty years. For ten of those years he has fought before the walls of Troy; it was his stratagem the Trojan Horse that finally enabled the assembled Greek forces to storm that city and bring the war to an end. Now, he has wandered the Mediterranean for another ten years, beleaguered by an angry god, threatened by monsters, bewitched by temptresses. Odysseus endures trials and temptations that arouse his sense of adventure, but still he drives on, to reach Ithaca, his wife Penelope, his son Telemachus—his home.
The Odyssey is both a marvelous adventure drama and a moving tale of loyalty, friendship, family, fate, and lasting love. David Denby, in his work Great Books, describes his engagement with The Odyssey as an essential exploration of the formation of the self for the reader as well as for Telemachus and Odysseus: “Even at the beginning of the literary tradition of the West, the self has masks, and remakes itself as a fiction and not as a guiltless fiction either.”
This study is the second of a three-study sequence, covering Homer’s Iliad, Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid.
- Six meeting study
- Recommended edition: Homer’s The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles, introduction by Bernard Knox; Penguin Classics; ISBN-13: 978-0143039952
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