Monday, February 4, 2013

Spotlight on "The Odyssey"

by Jim McLean

If the endless saga, spellbinding and harrowing, of Lindsay Lohan, girl alcoholic, star-crossed by the gods of booze, gives zest to your routine day, you should know what a bunch of us is presently involved in. We're reading the tale of wily Odysseus, “man of twists and turns,” who led the Greek victory at Troy, a ten-year war which finally ended when he came up with the idea of the wooden horse. Returning home after the fight is what soldiers do, but long-suffering Odysseus did not have an easy journey. He's been traveling for more than nine years now, seven spent as prisoner in the luxurious cave of the nymph Calypso. Freed at last, fearless Odysseus sets out by sea (the “wine-dark sea”) on the remaining short distance home. But real, real troubles lie ahead – Circe, and Scylla and Charybdis, and the one-eyed Cyclops, and the easily offended god Poseidon, who when irritated sends raging storms and waves to batter struggling Odysseus. We twelve readers know that these dreadful hardships await. We also know that cunning Odysseus will overcome them all and at last reach home (after twenty years away!) and his faithful and long-suffering wife Penelope.

That's not quite the end of this glorious tale, however. Proud Odysseus still has to deal with the dissolute suitors who for a few years have been living in his palace, consuming his food and drink, and bugging his burdened wife to marry one or the other of them. And, boy, does he ever deal with those unfortunate souls!

What makes this course even more enjoyable is Lucia Owen's experienced guidance of the class. The story is long, crammed with people and places and dramatic doings, and sprinkled with capricious gods. Lucia has made order of all that, and showed the parallels with our own time and place and lives. She has considered the literary structure of this epic (“The Odyssey”) and discussed what is known of the long-ago author, Homer, among the greatest of all poets. With her leadership, it has all been delightful – and we still have two more sessions to go!

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