The Hero and Classical Epics
CLST 272 
W, 6:00-8:30; LT 606
Patricia Graham-Skoul, Ph.D.; pgraha1@luc.edu
Office: LT 315A; 312-915-6527 (WTC) 
Office: CC 551; 773-508-3650 (LSC)

 
Required Texts: Homer, The Iliad, translated by Lattimore 
Homer,  The Odyssey, translated by Lattimore 
Vergil, The Aeneid, translated by Fitzgerald
Recommended: Wilcock, Companion to the Iliad
Tracy, The Story of the Odyssey 
Anderson, The Art of the Aeneid 
Gill, Personality in Greek Epic, Tragedy, and Philosophy 
 Taplin, Homeric Soundings 
Martin, Language of Heroes 
Zanker, The Heart of Achilles
J. W. Luce, Celebrating Homer’s Landscapes 
Schein, Reading the Odyssey 
Cohen, The Distaff Side

Table of Contents: Projected Schedule, Consultation, Prospectus, Procedures, Grading



 

Projected Schedule: This schedule is tentative and may be amended as the course proceeds.  Please check on-line course syllabus for modifications.
 
August 28 Introduction to the Iliad, Homer’s epic poem about the Trojan War; synopsis of plot; overview of human and divine characters; look at the Bronze Age, the period in which this story is set, and the Archaic Period, the period in which the poet Homer lived. 

Preliminary definition of epic poetry and heroism. 

Video selections from “The Search for Troy.  Prepare to discuss Book 1 and the “Wrath of Achilleus”: its causes and consequences.  Read Wilcock’s Companion to the Iliad for an ongoing commentary on the poem.

September 04 Iliad, Books 2-4: 

After Achilleus leaves the Achaians, Zeus accepts the appeal of Achilleus’ divine mother Thetis and sends a deceptive dream to Agamemnon; Athene and Odysseus muster the troops; the different contingents of Achaians and Trojans are specified (AKA, the “Catalogue of Ships” and “View from the Walls” ); Helen’s Trojan husband Paris/Alexandros fights against her former husband Menelaos.  Aphrodite intervenes for Paris (and Helen).  Trojans act treacherously (again) and break the truce. 

Video selection, “The Singer of Tales.” 

September 11 Iliad 5-8: 

Athene helps Diomedes win glory (“aristeia”) and prove his heroic descent; Diomedes and Glaukos learn of their familial friendship; Hektor returns to Troy and visits his mother Hekabe, the recuperating Paris with Helen, and his own wife Andromache, with baby Astyanax; Hektor fights Aias; After a truce the Trojans rally and push back the Achaians. 

Discuss how these books provide the Trojan perspective. 

September 18 Quiz 1-8. 

Iliad 9-11:

In despair Agamemnon sends an embassy to Achilleus; Odysseus and Diomedes spy against the Trojans; Major Greek warriors are wounded; Patroklos acts as Achilleus’ emissary; Nestor appeals to Patroklos for assistance. 

Prepare to discuss the justification or criticism of Achilleus’ response to the embassy and the effect of war or prolonged trauma on character 

September 25 Iliad 12-15: 

Sarpedon describes heroic “arete” (excellence); Hektor interprets an omen;  Hera seduces Zeus; Poseidon helps the Greeks; Aias demonstrates “aristeia”; Apollo and Hektor break through the Achaian line; Zeus prophesies the fate of Patroklos and Hektor. 

Video selection, “The Longest Day.” 

October 02 Iliad  16-20:

Patroklos puts on Achilleus’ armor to drive back the Trojans and dies but predicts future vengeance; Achilleus receives a  new set of  armor made by Hephaistos for Thetis; he resolves his quarrel with Agamemnon and returns to battle the Trojans. 

Discuss the role of the gods in this story. 

October 09 Iliad 21-24: 

The gods battle;  Achilleus defeats the Trojan River Skamander; defeats and kills Hektor; buries Patroklos; administers athletic competitions  in honor of the dead Patroklos; accepts the supplication of Priam for his son Hektor. 

Discuss Achilleus’ heroism: traditional, proud, insatiate; thoughtful, compassionate, generous. 

October 16 Exam on the Iliad.

Introduction to the Odyssey, the story of Odysseus’ wanderings after the Trojan War and his return  home.  Summary of the events subsequent to Achilleus’ meeting with Priam; Overview of Odysseus’ characterization in the Iliad. 

Read Tracy’s Story of the Odyssey for an ongoing account.

October 23 Books 1-5: 

Athene expresses concern for Odysseus, who still has not returned home.  She encourages his son Telemachos to act, and sends a dream to his wife Penelope, who has held off the suitors with her clever stratagem but now feels desperate.  Despite threats from these suitors, Telemachos succeeds in finding out information from his father’s friends Nestor and Menelaus.  Zeus sends Hermes to relay a message to the goddess with whom Odysseus has been staying the past seven years. 

Prepare to discuss the importance for Odysseus of his family: Why do they need him?  Why does he need them? 

October 30 Odysseus meets the princess Nausicaa and tells her people about his adventures since Troy: these include monstrous giants and cannibals, friends and enemies, the living and the dead; he receives gifts and a ride home. 

Film on Odysseus’ voyages.

November 06 Odyssey 14-19: 

Odyseus plots with Athene his secret return home; he dresses as a beggar and tests his son, his servants, and his wife.  Despite her tears, Penelope proves essential to Odysseus’ ultimate defeat of the suitors. 

Discuss the correct and incorrect displays of hospitality and the justification for Odysseus comparing Penelope to a king “whose fame goes up into the wide heaven.” 

Identify Paper Topic.

November 13 Odyssey 20-24: 

Odysseus, helped by Athene and Telemachos, defeats the suitors, wins Penelope’s trust and love; reunites with his aged father Laertes. 

Discuss Odysseus’ heroism: swashbuckling adventurer, devoted family man, Athene’s favorite. 

Exam on the Odyssey?

November 20 PAPER DUE.

Aeneid, l,2,4

Introduction to Vergil’s Aeneid, a Latin epic written for the Roman emperor Augustus on the adventures of Aeneas, who left Troy in defeat, traveled around the Mediterranean, and established the family who would found Rome. Aeneas survives a storm at sea, lands on the northern shores of Africa, meets Dido and tells his version of the Trojan War; he leaves with her curse. 

November 27 Selections from Aeneid 6, 7, 8, 12. 

Aeneas journeys to the Underworld before he lands on the shores of Italy where he must fight the native inhabitants before winning as bride the princess Lavinia; he receives new armor made by Vulcan for his mother Venus; he kills Turnus. 

December 04 Reading Day, Review for Final? 
December 11 Final Exam   6:-8:30 P.M. 

 

Consultation: I shall be in my office, Room 315 A in Lewis Towers on Wednesdays before class.  My WTC phone number is 312-915-6527.  My Lake Shore Office is in the Crown Center, Room 551; phone 773-508-3657 or 773-508-3650 (secretary).  My home phone is 847-251-0769.  Please call before 10:00 P.M. 


Prospectus:  This course will study the three most famous  Greek and Latin epics, monumental poems whose divine and mortal characters experience human concerns of lasting value. They represent swash-buckling adventures and intense passions.  They also dramatize the agonies heroes had to endure before they could obtain their goals.  In this course we shall examine what makes a person a hero, what honor entails, and how both chance and character influence success or failure.  We shall question how good can come about even in the most despicable situations, and what the worlds of gods and mortals, ancients and moderns have in common. We shall consider the literary genre of epic poetry and the societies for whom and about whom these poems were composed, how the poets present characters and ways of life, how poetic features such as epithets and similes add to our understanding the characters and their stories  We shall try to clarify how the ancient medium can provide a message for audiences present as well as past.  Topics of special concern: Personal Identity; Social Structure; Competing Claims and Conflicts (irresolvable?); Friendship, Justice, Pleasure; the effects of warfare, violence, prolonged absence from home, family, a stable way of life.  In what ways are our stories and the ways we hear stories of others affected by who we are, where and when we live, what our nature and culture predispose us to apprehend? 


Procedures: BE SURE TO BRING THE ASSIGNED TEXTS TO EACH CLASS AND TO READ THE  MATERIALS BEFOREHAND.  I shall provide background information and bring up possible problems and suggestions for solutions, but I expect students also to present their views about the subjects discussed.  CLASS ATTENDANCE IS IMPORTANT SO THAT YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO OUR  DISCUSSIONS. Students will be asked at different times to write down as individuals or in groups questions or opinions on the literature
discussed.  These exercises will count toward your final grade.

Tests and Term Paper: The tests  will include short objective questions, short essays, and possibly a longer essay which can be taken home.  The term paper, at least 5-7 typed pages, must be on a topic related to the material we read and must include footnotes and bibliography. An alternative project, approved by the instructor, must include a shorter typed report (usually about 3 pages) explaining the student’s methods or objectives.

All work must conform to this university’s rules on academic honesty and must be handed on the  required date or be downgraded unless the student has requested an extension from the instructor.

Grading: Mid-term and final grades will be determined from the accumulation of points obtained from quizzes (usually worth about 20 points each), the longer tests (usually worth about 65 points each), the term paper or project (worth 50 points), and class exercises (usually worth 5 points each).  A=93-l00%; B=85-92%; C=70-84%; D=60-69%.  B+, C+, and D+ grades may be assigned to those at the upper register of each grade level.