Homer’s Odyssey

Ulysses and the Sirens by H.J. Draper (courtesy jigboxx.com/Wikimedia Commons)
Ulysses and the Sirens by H.J. Draper

It has been said that there are only two stories in the world: you leave home on a journey, or a stranger comes to your hometown. Homer folds both together in all their rich implications in his epic poem, telling the story of Odysseus’s wanderings through the realms of the living and the dead and of his return home, in disguise, to reclaim his place as king, father, and husband. The Odyssey is at the same time an exciting page-turner as well as a profound exploration of the formation of individual character and identity.

Join us for a close reading and discussion of Robert Fagles’s lively and engaging translation of The Odyssey. Rather than approaching the book in chronological order, on each of our five days together, we will discuss a single theme and trace its unfolding throughout the book. To get a sense of the sound of Homer’s poetry, we will also look at a few short passages in the original Greek.

Image courtesy jboxx.com/Wikimedia Commons

“Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns, driven time and again off course.”

– Homer, The Odyssey


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Donald Whitfield is Vice President and Director of Great Books Discussions, the adult education division of the Great Books Foundation in Chicago. He has participated in and led Great Books groups for over forty-five years and considers Homer’s poetry at the center of things.

Participants are required to obtain the specified editions in order to facilitate the group’s ability to find and cite portions of the text during discussion.

The Odyssey, by Homer, translated by Robert Fagles (Penguin Classics, 1999)
ISBN-13: 978-0140268867

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