Reading the Iliad
The Iliad stands at the start of most histories of western literature, even as it remains enduringly strange—often, it seems, at odds with the very tradition it has been taken to inaugurate. In this course, we will read closely the entirety of Homer’s “poem of force,” attempting to recapture both some of its strangeness and its continued relevance. We’ll focus, too, on the following themes: the hero and his commemoration; the relations of men and women, of men and men, of humans, gods, and animals; exile and rebellion; violence and the making of epic art; the recompenses and failures of culture itself. How did an oral tradition of heroic poetry, enacted by singing bards for hundreds of years, coalesce into the written Iliad that we now know? How do the struggles of the Iliadic hero illuminate both consciousness itself and the borders of culture? What ideas of the homosocial and the homoerotic are dramatized in the Iliad‘s depiction of the world of warriors? How does the poem both commemorate and critique its own heroes? How might the struggle over the city of Troy illuminate our own national propensities toward war without end? Our primary focus will be on the Iliad itself, but we will also take up a few key texts in Iliadic criticism: Plato, Aristotle, Milman Parry and Albert Lord, and Simone Weil.
Course ScheduleTuesday, 6:30-9:30pm
September 10 — October 01, 2019