Teaser Plot Summary
Thomas Hockenberry, once a classics professor, now works for the ancient gods as a scholic during the Trojan War. Each day he observes the battle and reports his findings back to the muse he serves. While the events at first strictly adhere to Homer’s account in the Iliad, the plot soon diverges.
On the Earth, the race of humans is no more than one million and could care less about things such as reading and writing. However, due to the curiosity of one man named Harman, a small group of new-style humans set out to learn about their own world. Their encounter with the only old-style human left on Earth leads them on an eye-opening adventure.
Mahnmut, a lover of Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Orphu, a devotee of Marcel Proust, are moravecs, sentient creatures with both organic and mechanical parts. They are selected for a secret mission: to deliver a Device to Olympos Mons on Mars, a hotbed of quantum instability. Continue reading…
Teaser Plot Summary
Every life is many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love, but always meeting ourselves.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is a modernist reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey through more than just allusion. The novel takes place during the course of one day (June 16, 1904) in Dublin, Ireland, with the final chapter taking place during the morning of the next day. It mostly follows the stream-of-consciousness of Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and Molly Bloom throughout their day. In the Homeric parallel, Dedalus corresponds to Telemachus, Leopold Bloom corresponds to Odysseus, and Molly Bloom corresponds to both Calypso and Penelope. It is important to note that not much happens plot-wise; the reader learns most about the characters and past events through the stream-of-consciousness of the three characters and their interactions with others throughout the novel. The first three chapters are told from the perspective of Stephen Dedalus, an aloof, young teacher and writer/poet who is tormented by the loss of his mother and the current state of the world that surrounds him. Continue reading…
Mourning Becomes Electra is a trilogy of three plays: “Homecoming”, “The Hunted”, “The Haunted”.
Civil War-era New England April, 1865. The first act opens with three townsfolk and the Mannon gardener acting like a Greek chorus by revealing Ezra Mannon (the Agamemnon character) as coming from a family who has “been top dog round here for near on two hundred years” and, individually as “best fighter in the hull of Grant’s army”. The townsfolk are suspicious of his wife, Christine, (the Clytemnestra character) and they describe the family as full of secrets and looking as if they constantly wear masks to conceal them. Ezra’s daughter, Lavinia, (the Electra character) rejects a marriage proposal from a family friend because she cannot bear to leave her father revealing remarkable similarities to an Electra Complex. Also, a mysterious stranger, Adam Brant, is revealed to be the son of the forbidden love affair between Lavina’s great-uncle and the family maid. The latter were cast out of the Mannon household, and Brant has sworn revenge on the family. Thus far, he has been romantically linked to both Lavinia, and her mother, Christine. Continue reading…
Charles Frazier is an award-winning American historical novelist who is most famous for his NewYork Times best-seller Cold Mountain and his second novel, Thirteen Moons. A North Carolina native, Frazier graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1973. He also received an M.A. from Appalachian State University and a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina.
Cold Mountain is the story of Inman, a wounded Confederate army soldier who deserts from the military. This novel traces his journey back to his home in Cold Mountain, North Carolina and to his love interest, Ada. The novel alternates back and forth between their two stories, describing either Inman’s adventures or Ada’s struggles with running Black Cove, the farm that was left to her following her father’s death. Inman encounters impediments along his walk, including near-fatal encounters with the Home Guard, other bounty hunters looking for deserters, severe weather, harsh terrain, and hunger. He is helped along by others who oppose the war, and in turn assists those he finds to be in need. Continue reading…
Derek Walcott’s Omeros is an epic poem published in 1990 that draws on Homer to addresses issues in the post-colonial world of the island St. Lucia. Walcott divides his epic into seven books of various lengths, with a total of sixty-four chapters. Each chapter, which generally focuses on one particular character, is divided into three short sections. Walcott writes in hexameter, the same meter as Homer, and in a rough terza rima, the same form that Dante used. The poetry is incredibly well crafted, and this summary does not pretend to approach or describe the power and meaning of the work itself. Continue reading…
To the Sophists, man is ultimately an animal, subject to laws, which are variable in different culturs. This variability provoked a spirited debate among Greek thinkers in the fifth century about whether the differences between men are the result of nomos or physis.
The most interesting of such writings to survive is an anonymous work dating, most probably, to the 4th century B.C., known as the Dissoi Logoi or “Two Arguments.” This is a sophistic text, composed to illustrate Protagoras’ famous dictum that there are two contrary arguments possible for any proposition. In developing his case the author draws heavily upon ethnographic material collected by the logographers and others.
For instance, he points out that:
- the Spartans consider it proper for young girls to exercise in the nude, but the Ionians think it disgraceful, while the Ionians encourage their youth to learn music and letters but the Spartans find such things soft and unseemly;
- the Thessalians select and train horses themselves and do their own butchering, while the Sicilians think such chores fit only for slaves;
- the Macedonians permit young girls to have sex before marriage, but the other Greeks think it wrong;
- the Thracians find it attractive for young girls to be tattooed, where the Greeks view tattoos as a punishment and a mark of shame;
- the Scythians scalp their fallen enemy and have the skull gilded to use as a cup, but the Greeks find such things abhorrent;
- the Massagetae eat their dead, but the Greeks would exile anyone who did so as a monster;
- the Persians think it proper that men adorn themselves with jewelry and that men have intercourse with their daughters, mothers, and sisters, but the Greeks think otherwise;
- the Lydians encourage young virgins to prostitute themselves before marriage, etc.
The author concludes by declaring (in Sprague’s translation) that “if someone should order all men to make a single heap of everything that each of them regards as disgraceful and then again to take from the collection what each of them regards as seemly, not a thing would be left, but they would all divide up everything, because not all men are of the same opinion.”
All Sophists saw Physis as ultimately trumping Nomos, but their understanding of Physis differed wildly:
for some, eliminated all diff. b/n categories of humanity (Greek/Barbarian; master/slave’ noble;not);
OTHERS saw model in animal kingdom as justifying MIGHT MAKES RIGHT (Thrasymachus; Athenians in Thuc.), NOMOS = the tool of the weak to shackle the strong (Nietzsche)
OTHERS, like Protagoras, believed that man’s talents would lead to his destruction without limitations of NOMOS (makes possible civilized communal life)
Entries for the Clytemnestra Project are now available.
Activities, Classical Tradition, Contemporary Visions / No Comments
The Seven Sisters, by Margaret Drabble, is the relatively domestic tale of Candida Wilson, a recent divorcee who has not worked a day in her life. On the surface, the only connection between Candida and Virgil is the former’s trip with a group of friends to Italy. Yet, Candida reveals herself to be more than just a failed housewife through her knowledge of classic literature; she frequently makes analogies between herself and classic heroes in addition to becoming obsessed with speaking to the Sybil. Continue reading…
Here is the updated information on the collaborative blog post and response:
3) Introduction & Summary of Modern Work–Due Friday, May 1st
Part 1) After you have read (or re-read) your contemporary work, write an introduction and summary of the book with your classmates who are reading the same work. The introduction and summary prepared by the group will be posted on the course blog.
This post should briefly introduce the author, summarize the work, discuss how it relates to the Tale of Troy and (if applicable) highlight major connections to the major themes we have discussed this semester.
Part 2) To this summary, each member of the group should list (in a few sentences) the topic and preliminary thoughts on the direction of that his or her final essay will take.
4) Response to Summaries–Due with Final Essay/Project
Read each of the summaries written by your classmates and write a brief (3–4 sentence) explanation of which Troy-related work you would like to read next, and why.