View Full Version : SDMB Seminar™ #2: The Odyssey (Reading and Support Thread)

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-07-2008, 09:18 AM
See here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=454863) (Planning and Recruitment)
and here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=455410&page=1&pp=50) (the first Reading and Support thread)
and here (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=460407) (the first Discussion thread)

Well, this is a tomorrow...

Welcome to the first installment of the Straight Dope Seminar™!

We will be working our way through the reading list of St. John's College (http://www.stjohnscollege.edu/academic/ANreadlist.shtml), won't you join us? Each text will get two threads: A "Reading and Support" thread opened when we start reading, and an in-depth "Discussion" thread opened on the 'due date' for that reading, in which we will dazzle and edify one another (or muddle through to some murky insights, as the case may be).

The first selection was the Iliad, you can check out the links above if you're new. The discussion is still chugging along over in the last-linked thread, but since it's been 2 1/2 weeks since we finished the Iliad, it's time to start in on the next text, the fabulous and exciting Odyssey. I'm certainly excited and I hope you are, too.

To everyone who has been involved so far, I want to give a big thanks. I've learned a lot, and while I think I'll need to read the Iliad another few (dozen) times to get a handle on it, the Reading and Discussion threads were/are a huge help to me. If you skipped the Iliad altogether, or if you were active in the Reading thread and not in the Discussion thread, never fear, we're not exclusive! The threads will most likely include topics already discussed in the Iliad threads, but you needn't have participated in them to jump in now.

As before, let's keep this thread light- page counts and LOLGreekz and word translations and such, and save the "bigger" questions for the Discussion thread. This is also the place for supplemental reading/ viewing suggestions.

The last Reading thread lasted 5 weeks from when it started to when the Discussion thread opened, so let's keep that timetable for the Odyssey and see how it pans out. That gives us a due date of May 12 or thereabouts. If we all finish reading sooner than that, we can move it up, or back if we're slowpokes.

I'd like it if somebody else would start up the Discussion thread this time- come up with a starting question and maybe tweak the discussion parameters a bit. I enjoyed doing it last time, but I'd like this to be a collaborative project, not just the Margo show. So, whoever calls it first in this thread can do it!

Last of all, let's all introduce ourselves again- tell a little bit about your familiarity with the material and which translation you'll be using.

04-07-2008, 09:27 AM
Somewhat disappointingly I never got round to reading my copies of The Iliad (from the last support thread) or The Odyssey. I bought them both on the day my daughter was born on my girlfriend's recommendation, they actually came close to being binned that very day when my g/f almost vomited over the bag :o

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-07-2008, 09:33 AM
Hi, I'm Margo. Well, not really, but as far as you know, right?

I read the Odyssey in High School. I can't remember if it was 9th or 10th grade (I had the same teacher and classmates for two years so they blend together). I don't know what version that was- but I remember we spent most of the time sort of telling the different episodes to each other rather than reading. It was pretty fun. We also broke into groups and made movies of different segments. I think my group did the episode with Calypso. I was Athena. This was the Honors English class- make of that what you will. Also, I read Ulysses last year in a college class, and we spent a few classes discussing the characters and adventures in the Odyssey as they relate to Joyce (or don't, as the case may be).

I'll be reading the Fagles (http://www.amazon.com/Odyssey-Robert-Fagles/dp/0140268863) translation. I enjoyed his Iliad quite a bit- it was action-packed without feeling watered down.

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-07-2008, 09:43 AM
they actually came close to being binned that very day when my g/f almost vomited over the bag :o

Is that an artist's recreation of the incident?

I really beat my copy of the Iliad up- stuffing it in my purse every day, cracking the spine when I took notes using it as a writing surface... Now I have to make the Odyssey match, I suppose. I've really lost a lot of my respect for the material sanctity of books over the last few years. I still keep library books and really nice expensive personal books as pristine as possible, but that is more out of respect for future readers (and, in the case of library books, the fact that the darn things aren't mine to ruin) than anything else. I've even taken to reading in the bath :eek:

I figure, I got it used (paid a dollar for the Fagles set, for instance), I can do with it as I wish, since I get more than my $$ worth out of it just by reading it once.

04-07-2008, 09:49 AM
We'll see what happens. I hated the Illiad, but did eventually finish reading it. So I'm not much looking forward to the Odyssey.

On the other hand, I did read some sort of version of the Odyssey back in high school, probably grade 9 or 10, and I don't recall hating it. And it seems to me at the moment that the Odyssey has more stuff going on than it felt like the Illiad did.

I'm tempted to read something other than the Fagles translation, in the hopes that Fagles was part of why I found the Illiad boring and repetitive. But we'll see what's readily accessible through my library.

If no one else volunteers to start the discussion thread, my arm can probably be twisted, but I'm not filled with great enthusiasm for this project at the moment, and some of that is because I reacted so badly to the Illiad.

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-07-2008, 09:57 AM
And it seems to me at the moment that the Odyssey has more stuff going on than it felt like the Illiad did.

I think that the Odyssey might be like the anti-Iliad in some respects- zooming all over the map, newly introduced characters actually get to do stuff rather than being immediately killed off. I liked the Iliad, but I don't think I could take a retread right now- it took a lot out of me- so I'm going into this text expecting a different experience. Who knows, though, I may be way off base.

04-07-2008, 02:55 PM
I'll be reading the Lattimore version, I believe.
Oh, did everyone see the Fagles obit last week or so, BTW?

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-07-2008, 05:07 PM
I'll be reading the Lattimore version, I believe.
Oh, did everyone see the Fagles obit last week or so, BTW?

No, I missed that- thanks for the heads up.

04-08-2008, 09:35 AM
I have now collected the Penguin Classic version, and some other version. The names of both translators begin with R. This book is much smaller than the Fagle's Illiad, so that's encouraging. (Even if the differences between style and translator mean one can't really judge whether the amount of stuff to be read is so much smaller).

Larry Borgia
04-08-2008, 09:14 PM
I'm in. I'll try Fagles translation, as I liked his Illiad. I've read the Lattimore translation a long time ago.

04-08-2008, 09:52 PM
I think I might sit this one out. I never liked the Odyssey as much as the Illiad. The fairy tale elements are pretty bland to my modern sensibilities and the obstacles that keep Odysseus from getting home seem kind of contrived to me. Telemachus's is useless and his mini-trip is discordant with the rest of the work (although its great to hear that little bitch Agamemnon get his :cool: ). Then again I do like the visit to Hades and the reunion with Achilles. Hmm, now that I write this, maybe I should revisit it. Awww, what the hell...

04-09-2008, 08:03 AM
I'm in. I'm also reading the Lattimore translation.

And I promise I'll finish The Illiad as well!

The Odyssey is a much easier read, IMHO. It reads a lot more like a fantasy novel.

04-09-2008, 11:05 AM
OK, I'm gonna give it a whirl, but I have a whole bunch of giant books sitting on my nightstand right now. I lost momentum with the Iliad--I think because I'd read it just the year before and I never actually liked it all that much. But I do like the Odyssey, so here goes. And I'll take some of those giant books back to the library and save them for another day. (I guess I can use this as an excuse for why I'm not reading The Pillars of the Earth, right? I'm not sure I want to read that one.)

Larry Borgia
04-15-2008, 10:40 AM
So is this thing on? Do we want to wait a little longer to drum up interest? I just started the book, but I'll wait if only a couple of people are in now.

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-23-2008, 04:39 PM
Hey all- I'm through the first 4 books (I waited a while to get started), and I have question for those reading translations besides the Fagles:

in Book 4, around line 375 or so (original line 340), Menelaus gets really mad when Telemachus tells him about the suitors.

"That's the bed
of a brave man of war they'd like to crawl inside,
those spineless craven cowards!
Weak as the doe that beds down her fawns
in a mighty lion's den- her newborn sucklings-
then trails off to the mountain spurs and grassy bends
to graze her fill, but back the lion comes to his own lair
and the master deals both fawns a ghastly bloody death,
just what Odysseus will deal that mob-ghastly death."

I like the image, and I think I understand what he's saying, but I feel like the metaphor (simile?) is a bit off- are the suitors the doe or the fawns? Both?

Is this worded differently in other translations or am I just missing something? Maybe Menelaus just has an odd way of speaking.

Also- Was Helen with Menelaus when he was wandering for 7 years or did she get home on another ship? Maybe I missed that bit of the backstory, but it started bugging me during his story about Proteus.

04-23-2008, 04:45 PM
My Lattimore translation says this:

"Oh, for shame, it was in the bed of a bold and strong man
they wished to lie, they themselves being all unwarlike.
As when a doe has brought her fawns to the lair of a lion
and put them there to sleep, they are new borm and still suckling,
then wanders out into the foothills and the grassy corners,
grazing there, but now the lion comes back to his own lair
and visits a shameful destruction on both mother and children;
so Odysseus will visit shameful destruction on these men."

So at least in my book, the suitors are both the doe and the fawns. I wonder what the Greek said...

I'm at the end of book 4 myself, so at least I'm not the only one!

04-23-2008, 07:49 PM
Oh, crap-- when are we supposed to start discussion? (Due to personal drama my brain's fallen out and I forgot about this) I'm in, I'm in. I'm just behind.

Larry Borgia
04-23-2008, 09:30 PM
I've been a little slow too. I'm starting book 5. Probably need a week or so past deadline.

Margo, I think Menelaus thinks of the suitors as both the doe and the fawns. Odysseus would kill them as easily as a Lion who found a family of deer camped out in his lair.

The Lovely Margo Lane
04-24-2008, 09:44 AM
Thanks guys, I thought I was going insane. It looks like Fagles just left out "the doe and the" between "both" and "fawns". It doesn't really make a difference. The asymmetry did make the whole exchange stick in my mind, though.

As far as the big discussion deadline, let's just feel our way again. I'll keep checking in with my progress and when most of us are done somebody can start the thread. I'd rather have us go slow than speed up and leave people behind.

04-30-2008, 10:47 AM
I'm on book 12 now, but I'm leaving town for a few days, so if you start I won't be there yet.

The Lovely Margo Lane
05-12-2008, 05:54 PM
Checking in again- I'm up to book 18, and I have an 8-hour train ride tomorrow, with a return trip on Thursday, so that should finish it up nicely. How is everyone doing? I'll probably be without net access until Friday, but don't let my absence stop you if you want to start the discussion thread.

The structure if this book threw me for a bit of a loop when I realized (when I was reading about Odysseus meeting the Phaecian royals) that the time encompassed from the start of the book to the end isn't 10 years, like I assumed, but only what- a few months? All the stories about what Odysseus was up to for 10 years are related to us through someone telling someone else- except for the bit where Calypso sends him on his way. Other than that, we get Telemachus' travels, the Soap Opera of the Gods, and tales being told around the royal hearth.

Also, Menelaus' story about wrestling Proteus to get him to dish the dirt on the rest of the Greeks has been haunting me- just where did that sea-nymph get those stinky sea-skins, anyhow? Poor, cute seals :(I'm not sure why that bothers me when all the sacrifices and bloodshed don't, but there's something primal about it, perhaps because the smell is mentioned so explicitly, that makes me shudder. I've been doing some drawings- I'll try to get them scanned in and show you later in the week.

05-12-2008, 06:04 PM
All the stories about what Odysseus was up to for 10 years are related to us through someone telling someone else- except for the bit where Calypso sends him on his way.

This surprised me, too-- all the parts of the story that I already "know" are told in indirect discourse rather than the third person of the rest of the story. So of course little Po-Mo me gets this hilarious, Umberto Eco/"Usual Suspects" "Aha! Unreliable narrator! Strange framing device! Maybe that whole section of the story is bullshit and he's making shit up!" reaction. I might play with that theory for a while to amuse myself and irritate classicists.

On the other hand, with the Telemachus soap opera, finally Joyce's Ulysses is making a bit more sense.

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