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Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyssey

Posted: Mon May 14, 2018 6:14 pm
by chicxulub
I haven't been able to find an active one yet. Just getting started again after a loooong hiatus...anyone want to join me?

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Mon May 14, 2018 6:32 pm
by Paul Derouda
Hello and welcome! Whether someone joins your group or not – if you start reading the Odyssey and just post any questions here, I'm sure you'll get answers and help. I for one have already read the Odyssey a couple of times, so I won't be joining the group, but I'd be happy to help, and there are others here who are much more knowledgeable in Greek than I am.

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Tue May 15, 2018 2:37 pm
by Adelheid
The last group I joined here was a long time ago, 8 years or so? I have been busy with Modern Greek since, but a reading group for the Odyssey I would love to join.

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 6:12 pm
by Altair
I might be interested in a reading group, depending on how it is structured. What are you thinking about?

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Sun May 27, 2018 7:48 pm
by Adelheid
I am going to read book 5 starting this thursday. I have no structure. I loved the group reading book 1 of the Iliad, many years ago, but I don’t expect a structured learning environment like that will be available now. We could simply use this thread, I think.

I will go slowly, but surely. Anyone else in for the ride?

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Mon May 28, 2018 7:46 am
by gregf
I would be interested in participating, have you started already? Are you located in Europe? I'm in France, and I've found I don't work very well with reading groups on other continents, no matter what time they're set up. :)

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Sat Jun 02, 2018 8:30 pm
by Altair
I do not think simply reading in parallel and occasionally sharing comments would be enough motivation for me to persevere. I would need more structure.

I have currently stagnated a few books into the Iliad while other linguistic delights have distracted my attention. Simply reading through the book is also not enough of a goal to maintain my motivation. I already know how it ends!

What I would like is a flexible tour guide to point out interesting landmarks as I read and maybe answer some questions or provoke some thoughts. I want to learn things to improve my reading of Greek on the fly and to hear more of Homer's music. Failing any volunteers, I would like a reading group where we could alternate serving as guides for each other, with others popping in at will. I would also like some predetermined, but flexible structure.

Since it is easier to address something concrete than abstract. Below is a concrete proposal. Maybe it's too ambitious; but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am probably more interested in the linguistic aspects of Greek than most learners, so my proposal is probably skewed too far in that direction. I am just suggesting what I would like to hear about, but others might have different views.

1. Let's read at least one book every two weeks. That would mean taking about a year to read or re-read through the 24 books. If enthusiasm is sustained, we could probably pick up the pace as our reading skills improve and finish in six months. Reading ahead is no problem, of course. Reading at a slower pace would also not be a problem, since there is nothing preventing folks from picking up old threads. Such a pace might also allow folks to continue their other reading priorities while keeping up with this pace. It would also allow time to re-read portions where we may have missed interesting landmarks brought up in the discussion.

2. Let's volunteer to take turns as group leader. This would spread the load and could bring out a diversity of interests, levels of competency, and creativity.

3. The leader would be "asked" to post 1-5 questions or comments directed about 4 general areas, for a total of 5-20 comments.

4. Others could then add their questions or comments.

Here is an example from the first 4 paragraphs of the Odyssey of a large variety of things that what would interest me:

4a. Confusing or interesting words: e.g., (i) How should we understand the two possible interpretations of πολύτροπον in line 1? Does Homer intend it as "giving" or "receiving" many twists and turns? In other words, is Homer stressing that Odysseus was a trickster or just prone to a lot of detours? (ii) How might the two uses of γε differ in πολλὰ δ᾽ ὅ γ᾽ ἐν πόντῳ πάθεν ἄλγεα and τῶν ἁμόθεν γε, θεά, θύγατερ Διός, εἰπὲ? (iii) What might Ὑπερίονος mean, and why might it be an apt epithet for the sun god? (iv) How could ἱέμενός come to mean something like "eager" based on the core meaning of ἵημι? (v) What does ἀέθλων mean in οὐδ᾽ ἔνθα πεφυγμένος ἦεν ἀέθλων καὶ μετὰ οἷσι φίλοισι? (vi) Did you know that ἁμόθεν (line 10), οὐδαμός, ἅμα, ἀδελφός, ἄλοχος, ὅμοιος, "some," "similar," and "million" may all share the same etymology? Knowing that, whether right or wrong, makes it easier for me to remember the meaning of all these words.

4b. Confusing or interesting syntax: e.g., (i) How should we understand the role of νήπιοι in αὐτῶν γὰρ σφετέρῃσιν ἀτασθαλίῃσιν ὄλοντο, νήπιοι ...? (ii) What is the role of the last two words in ἀλλ᾽ ὅτε δὴ ἔτος ἦλθε περιπλομένων ἐνιαυτῶν? (iii) What is the role of the first two words in τῷ οἱ ἐπεκλώσαντο θεοὶ οἶκόνδε νέεσθαι? (iv) What's up with κατὰ in οἳ κατὰ βοῦς Ὑπερίονος Ἠελίοιο ἤσθιον? (v) The following words in the first four lines exhibit a seemingly marked word order: πολύτροπον, ἄλγεα, and ὃν. What kind of emphasis is each giving in that marked order? Is there a way to bring out this emphasis in an English translation--where word order is not so flexible--that might give a similar feel.

4c. Confusing or interesting discourse features (i.e., How is the word choice and the grammar in the story structured to make whatever points the poet wants to make): e.g. (1) The first paragraph contains verbs in the following forms: imperative, aorist, imperfect, and participles. How do these choices help structure the story? I find the tense of ἤσθιον particularly evocative amid a string of verbs in the aorist. (2) Does the choice of ὅσοι in line 11 contain a veiled reference to the fate of Achilles in the Iliad without interrupting the story? (3) The first verse has μοι in a position without emphasis, while the tenth verse has a corresponding καὶ ἡμῖν in an emphasized position. Should we make something of this? (4) How do the particles structure the discourse in the first paragraph through their presence or absence? They arguable mark assertions (δὲ), manage some of the relevance of cultural and social background (τε), mark similarities (καὶ), direct your moral reaction (αὐτὰρ), mark explanations (γὰρ), and set up hints about where the story is going (γε). (5) Does the δὴ in line 16 play a key part in processing the thrust of the paragraph at that point. How does it contrast with the μὲν...δὲ structure that precedes it? How does the μὲν in line 22 control our expectations about what is to follow? Does what you expect actually follow?

4c. Confusing or interesting poetic or story-telling artistry: e.g., (1) Why does the poet begin with an appeal to the Muse? Is it because of superstition, formality, mystery, or something else? (ii) Verses 1 and 10 could be seen to form a ring structure with a similar appeal to the Muse. How might this help us to appreciate the story, if at all? (iii) There are many words beginning with the letter P in the first four lines. Is this intentional alliteration, or is it just random? In fact, four forms of πολύς are repeated in the first four lines. Do you find this repetitive, beautiful, intriguing, or irrelevant? (iv) What explains the breaks in the meter in lines 5 (ἀρνύμενος ἥν τε ψυχὴν), 21 (ἀντιθέῳ Ὀδυσῆι πάρος ἣν γαῖαν ἱκέσθαι),and 27 (Ζηνὸς ἐνὶ μεγάροισιν Ὀλυμπίου)? Is there any logic behind the rule for the break in line 27? (v) By the third paragraph, we seem to have a stories within stories four levels deep, like the movie Inception. We have Aigisthos' recklessness and his fate at the bottom level, then the activity of the gods in Olympus and the land of the Ethiopians, then Odysseus and Calypso in some caves, then the dialog among the storyteller, the Muse, and the audience. Interestingly, most of the first four paragraphs seems actually to be about Aigisthos, the apparently least important level to the overall story arch. Do you think this is good story-telling technique?

4d. Confusing or interesting cultural aspects of Homer's setting: e.g., (1) What view of fate is Homer presenting and what view of fate is the audience accepting in lines 17 and 32-36. Are humans or the gods the source of evil? (2) Was Calypso widely known outside of this story? Does she have a background we should know about to be in the same position as an early audience? (3) Is the social point of the mini story about Aigisthos about being disobedient to the will of the gods, stupidly hard headed, or simply immoral? (4) Does the split settlement of the Ethiopians imply something of the geography and cultural knowledge the Greeks of this age had? Is it an allusion to dark skinned people in two different parts of the world? If so, which two? (5) How real do we think the audience took the role of Poseidon in the story thus far? Was this a social message about watching out of the consequences of your actions? A religious message about being careful not to cross the wrong gods? Just a convenient literary device to account for shipwrecks?

In this proposal, I have put more than I would expect any one leader to contribute in order to give an idea of what folks might find interesting. A tour guide doesn't need to say a lot to be useful or even break new ground, just help guide your focus toward and around some interesting things. I have also probably given a bad example in not clarifying what questions I am posing to provoke thought and what questions I might be asking to seek actual answers.

I am also not looking for an academic analysis of the Odyssey, but rather an interactive experience. I am sure that every line of the Odyssey has been examined from every possible angle, but don't want to delve into them on my own. I just want a private tour or at lease a joint exploration without having my head buried in a reference book or having to read up too much in advance.

Sometimes we have a lot of time and are excited, but sometimes we are pressed for time and may find nothing particular interesting to say. I think aiming for a leader to provide something between 5 to 20 comments within two weeks would not be onerous and would give flexibility. That way would be sure to have some interaction to work from and keep it interesting. Taking turns would also spread the load and encourage us to forge ahead. Others could chime in to make it more interesting. It could be as deep or light as folks could want.

Does some structure like this have any appeal? Any other thoughts or proposals? Or should I just return to my stagnation in the Iliad and my other linguistic delights?

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 5:04 pm
by jortegabetancourt
I’m in

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Tue Jun 12, 2018 9:23 pm
by seanjonesbw
I think this is a great idea. I've been following the GreekStudy collation mailing list for the Iliad but that's only really useful for comparing translations so I would be totally up for a more in-depth reading group. I think Altair's suggestion is a good one and I'd be happy to take on the role of group leader some weeks, but I'd also be up for taking part in a more relaxed setup if that's what most people wanted. If there was a structured group, I'd maybe suggest 1 book/month as the pace (around 100-150 lines per week) to start with at least so as to give more opportunity for discussion and put less pressure on people to keep up - I know I would struggle at the moment.

Altair's idea of breaking discussion down into linguistic, literary and cultural considerations intuitively seems a good one and I would even extend this to the leader bringing in a topic that they find particularly interesting (Greek shame culture, women in the classical world etc.) and seeing how that applies not just to the reading that week but to everything read so far.

I feel like we need a soft start date - July 1st?

Re: Anyone interested in a Greek reading group for the Odyss

Posted: Wed Jul 04, 2018 9:27 pm
by Paul Derouda
I see this reading group hasn't got very far yet... But if anyone of you has started reading, I suggest that you just post your queries here, whether you have a group or not. I'm sure you'll get answers.

Altair takes up quite a number of points on the first lines of the poem. Perhaps you could select just a couple of these you find particularly interesting/difficult to help discussion get started?