Class 2 Epic and Homer
 Appetizer
Literature Humanities
 Humanities C1001-C1002: Masterpieces of
Western literature and philosophy
 Popularly known as “Literature Humanities’’
or “Lit Hum,” this yearlong course offers
Columbia College students the opportunity
to engage in intensive study and discussion
of some of the most significant texts of
Western culture.
 The course is not a survey, but a series of careful
readings of literary works that reward both first
encounters and long study. Whether class work
focuses on the importance of the text to
literary history or on its significance to our
contemporary culture, the goal is to consider
particular conceptions of what it means to be
human as well as the place of such conceptions in
the development of critical thought.
 The principal objectives of Literature Humanities
are to teach students to analyze literary texts and
to construct intellectual arguments. An
interdepartmental staff of professorial and
preceptorial (指导者的)faculty meets with groups
of approximately twenty-two students for four
hours a week in order to discuss texts by Homer,
Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Herodotus,
Thucydides, Aristophanes, Plato, Vergil,
Augustine, Dante, Boccaccio, Montaigne,
Shakespeare, Austen, Dostoevsky, and Woolf,
as well as Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament
 Taught by members of the Departments of
Classics, English and Comparative Literature,
French, German, Italian, Middle East and Asian
Languages and Cultures, Philosophy, Religion,
Slavic Languages, and Spanish; and members of
the Society of Fellows. Major works by over twenty
authors, ranging in time, theme, and genre from
Homer to Virginia Woolf. Students are expected to
write at least two papers, to complete two
examinations each semester, and to participate
actively in class discussions
Contemporary Civilization C1101-C1102:
Introduction to contemporary civilization in the
 The central purpose of “Contemporary
Civilization” or “CC” is to introduce students
to a range of issues concerning the kinds of
communities— political, social, moral, and
religious—that human beings construct for
themselves and the values that inform and
define such communities; the course is
intended to prepare students to become
active and informed citizens..
 Founded in 1919 as a course on War and Peace
Issues, Contemporary Civilization has evolved
continuously, while remaining a constant and
essential element of the Columbia College
curriculum. The course asks students to read
closely texts in various traditions of argument
and to construct arguments of their own, both in
speech and in writing, about some of the explicit
and implicit issues these texts raise
 Both the form and the content of the course
contribute to the achievement of its aims. The
discussion format is intended to respond in a
palpable way to the existence in these traditions of
different and often conflicting points of view; to
embody the possibility of reasoned discourse
among people who hold disparate convictions; and
to help students sharpen their own skills of thought
and argument about matters of current personal
and civic concern through participating in and
extending the debates of the past.
 The Contemporary Civilization syllabus
introduces students to a set of ideas and
arguments that have played a formative
role in the political and cultural history of
our time, alerts them to ideas that have
not held an influential role in that history,
and acquaints them with some exemplars of
critical thinking about alternative cultures,
institutions, and practices.
 Why does poetry exist ?What is poetry about ?
 THE HUMAN heart has ever dreamed of a fairer
world than the one it knows. No man, however
dark his spirit, however cramped his senses, is
quite without the yearning after wider horizons and
a purer air. In a happy moment earth seems to
hold for all the promise of larger things. The
moment passes; and the world closes in again,
actual, bare, unyielding, as before.
 What each of us is seeking the
poet has already found. Poetry is
the step beyond, which we were
about to take, but were not certain
of the way. In our experience from
year to year, we are not without
glimpses of beauty in the world, a
sense of meaning somewhere
within the shows of things.
Of this beauty and this meaning
poetry is a fuller revelation. The poet
gives us back the world we already
know, though it is a world
transfigured; he draws his material
from stores to which we all have
access, but with a difference. His
vision, clearer and more penetrating,
transfigures the facts and discloses
the beauty only waiting to be thus
 The older poetry of a people takes shape
around a story. Childhood dearly loves a tale;
for its simple heart finds the way out of a
reality it does not understand by contriving a
world of make-believe. The young
imagination, not yet beset by too urgent
actualities, admits no bounds to its wide
 The imagination of childhood
demands action, deeds done and
stories told,—high adventures of gods
and heroes, or the tangled fortunes of
princes and damsels, of knights and
captive ladies, of fairies and sprites.
So a fable builds itself out of free
 The love of a story never passes. All through
its long history, in every land and among
every people, poetry has not ceased to
interest itself in all conceivable happenings
of life. But the stream of poetry is fed by
many sources, and it takes color and
volume according to the channels through
which it flows.
 Iliad
 Enoch Arden" is a poem published in
1864 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, during
his tenure as England's Poet Laureate.
 This movement, as each nation
develops its own art and culture,
has been in the direction from the
general to the particular, from the
interests of the entire nation to the
affairs of private persons.
 All nations have their own distinctive
beginnings, and these are widely
distributed in time: the term “earlier,”
therefore, is relative to each nation.
Examples of such earlier poetry are the
“Iliad” and the “Odyssey,” on the one
hand—though these represent the
culmination rather than the beginning of
an age, …
 The story is told and retold: passing
from lip to lip, it receives changes and
additions. Again, finally, some one,
unknown by name, gives it the form in
which it is written down and so
preserved. But it is the poetry of a
people rather than of a man.
 This poetry has certain traits which serve to
mark it as popular or national. In the case of
poems of greater scope, like the “Iliad” or
“Beowulf,” it deals with action in the large.
The heroes whose deeds it celebrates are
the possession of the kindred or the race;
they are kings and men of might or valor,
known to all in the national traditions. Even
the gods are not absent; they play a
dominant part in the action.
 One characteristic these tales have which,
apart from their form as verse, makes them
poetry. The world which they give back is
idealized. They come into being in response
to men’s love of a story. But the action which
they embody is not the petty and
commonplace round of daily affairs; the
action is heightened and intensified.
 * lofty, noble, sublime
Homer and the Epic
 EPIC poetry might be described as that
in which fewest poets have achieved
 Homer, Virgil, Milton
 treated a large theme with the dignity,
grandeur, and beauty which the heroic
poem demands.
Biography of Homer
 Little can be known with certainty. But even though
the details of Homer's life remain and probably will
always remain? an enigma, his great epics come
down to us intact.
 His works have formed a foundation for all the
Western literature that has followed, and his
characters and stories have had an impact on
three thousand years' worth of readers. Facts
about the poet's life can do little to add to that
Trojan War
 No other texts in the Western
imagination occupy as central a
position in the self-definition of Western
culture as the two epic poems of
Homer, the Iliad and the Odyssey .
They both concern the great defining
moment of Greek culture, the Trojan
 This war, however, fired the imaginations of the
Greeks and became the defining cultural moment
in their history. Technically, the war wasn't fought
by "Greeks" in the classical sense, it was fought by
the Myceneaens; the Greek culture that we call
"classical" is actually derived from a different
group of Greeks, the Dorians and Ionians.
However, the Greeks saw the Trojan War as the
first moment in history when the Greeks came
together as one people with a common purpose.
 If the Greeks regarded the Trojan War as
the defining moment of their culture, they did
so because of the poetry of Homer. It would
not be unfair to regard the Homeric poems
as the single most important texts in Greek
culture. While the Greeks all gained their
collective identity from the Trojan War, that
collective identity was concentrated in the
values, ethics, and narrative of Homer's epic
 As the Trojan War was the product of
Mycenean culture, the Homeric poems
were the product of the Greek Dark
Ages. Whatever happened at Troy, the
events were probably so captivating,
that the Greeks continued to narrate
the stories long after they had
abandoned their cities and abandoned
 These stories probably began as short
tales of isolated events and heroes;
eventually a profession of story-telling
was established—classical scholars
call this new professional a "bard." This
new professional began combining the
stories into larger narratives; as the
narratives grew, the technique of storytelling changed as well.
 Although historical, archaeological, and
linguistic evidence suggests that the epics
were composed between 750 and 650 b.c.,
they are set in Mycenaean Greece in about
the twelfth century b.c., during the Bronze
Age. This earlier period, the Greeks
believed, was a more glorious and sublime
age, when gods still frequented the earth
and heroic, godlike mortals with
superhuman attributes populated Greece
 Odyssey
the hero Odysseus: man of deceit and trick ;
It tells the story of his nostos, or journey
home, to northwest Greece during the tenyear period after the Greek victory over the
Trojans. A tale of wandering, it takes place
not on a field of battle but on fantastic
islands and foreign lands.
* Nostalgia
 Of the two epics, the Odyssey is the later
both in setting and, probably, date of
 Like the Iliad, the Odyssey was composed
primarily in the Ionic dialect of Ancient
Greek, which was spoken on the Aegean
islands and in the coastal settlements of
Asia Minor, now modern Turkey.
 After the unrelenting tragedy and carnage
of the Iliad, the Odyssey often strikes
readers as comic or surreal at times. This
quality has led some scholars to conclude
that Homer wrote the Odyssey at a later
time of his life, when he showed less
interest in struggles at arms and was more
receptive to a storyline that focused on the
fortunes and misadventures of a single man
Odysseus’s World Ancient Greece
 Greece, unlike Egypt or Mesopotamia, is not
a place that is easy to live in.
 Infertile soil
 Lots of mountains
 Less fresh water
 Coastline/beaches/numerous islands
 Good sailing VS lousy farming
 Such environment made Greeks try to get
living from seas.
 Sailors/ soldiers / pirate/ traders /
 Trojan War: piracy/raiding
 The Greek landscape is beautiful but
 Laurence Durrell
 You should see the landscape of Greece. It
would break your heart.”
Spirit of Place
 The land’s dazzling variety of colors,
textures, temperatures, sounds and smells,
constantly surprises the eye, the ear, the
nose and the heart. But Greece has no
harsh extremes. There are no hot deserts or
frozen tundra here, no great plains or
soaring mountains, no grand canyons or
giant volcanoes.
 Everything seems to be made in a smaller,
more human scale. The bright sunlight
caresses every surface to expose the
deepest blue of the sea, the startling white
of stones and houses, the brilliant green of
pine forests, wheat fields and olive groves,
the richest red and yellow of flowers.
 The ubiquitous smell of the sea blends
smoothly with the pungent smell of mountain
oregano, thyme or pine; it mixes well with
the sweet scent of jasmine, lavender, basil
(罗勒 ) or bay(月桂树), and brings out the
best aromas from vineyards, wineries,
orange groves or freshly baked bread.
 Nicholas Gage
 “The red unpromising soil was sown with
stones, but it brought forth
 the gods, the heroes, and the philosophers,
the literature, the architecture, and the art.…
These people (Hellenes) created one of the
brightest, longest lasting, and most
 Yet when you walk among the stones of
Greece and experience that combination of
light and water and earth that is the Greek
landscape, it all becomes inevitable. No
other land could have produced such a
people, and this land could have produced
nothing else.”
Portrait of Greece
Highlight of Landscape : Agora
 "Agora" in Greek literally means "a place of
gathering" and the Agora of Athens was the
heart of Athenian life in Ancient times. For
centuries It served as a busy marketplace
where merchants and artisans had
congregated to offer their goods to all who
gathered, and it also provided a platform for
the Athenian political and intellectual life.
 This is the place where Aristocrats and Tyrants
enforced their rule on their Athenian subjects, and
where later the concept of "direct democracy" was
born and flourished. The Agora was the physical
place where every Athenian citizen gathered to
conduct their business, participate in their city's
governance, decide judicial matters, express their
opinion for all who cared to listen, and elect their
city officials.
 For every free Athenian citizen, participating
in such "common" activities was not merely
a duty, but instead it was a privilege and an
honor. In fact, the term "idiot" (idiotis=he
who acts on his/her own) was used to mock
those who avoided participation in the
common citizen activities.
Odysseus' Journey
Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis
Corfu Island
 Homers Odyssey describes Corfu as the island of the
hospitable Phaeikes, who enabled him after a ten yea
journey to return home to Ithaca.
Plot Overview
 A large and rowdy mob of suitors who have
overrun Odysseus’s palace and pillaged his
land continue to court his wife.
 Prince Telemachus
 The beautiful nymph Calypso
 Athena, Odysseus’s strongest supporter
among the gods
 Poseidon’s wrath
Character list
Nausicaa, the Phaeacian princess
the Land of the Lotus Eaters
his battle with Polyphemus the Cyclops,
his love affair with the witch-goddess Circe,
his temptation by the deadly Sirens,
 his journey into Hades to consult the
prophet Tiresias,
 his fight with the sea monster Scylla.
Major Themes
Home, wandering, and fidelity;
Cunning and disguise;
Women as predatory;
Odysseus' character flaws;
The power of the gods;
Textual Reading