Interdisciplinary Honors Seminars

Homer's Odyssey: Mythology, Psychology and Politics

Homer's Odyssey: Mythology, Psychology and Politics


Index# 20147

Professor Steven Walker

T 9:50-12:50

HC S124 College Ave Campus

Will Count Towards SAS –Asian Language & Cultures Major
Will Count Towards SAS –Asian Language & Cultures Minor

There are 24 chapters in the Odyssey, and we will be reading and discussing several of them each week in the translation by Robert Fitzgerald. The bulk of our seminar work together will simply be letting our minds and imaginations work on the text through close reading and discussion, and seeing what we come up with. 

The mythological side of the Odyssey is one of the things that have made it fascinating for each new generation of readers. We will look carefully at the rich mythological world of the Odyssey with a special eye for psychological meaning and insight, especially as regards the initiation process of a young man (Telemakhos), a young woman (Nausikaa), an older man (Odysseus), and an older woman (Penelope). But there has also been a perennial fascination with the historical subtext: did Odysseus (or someone like him) really exist? Does what Homer tells us about him, his island Ithaca and his society actually correspond to historical fact? The Odyssey also turns out to have a special relevance for the discussion and the possible resolution of one major problem our society is facing today, and it is Jonathan Shay’s book Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming that will lead us from the world of ancient heroic epic to one of the most neglected problems of modern war. Finally, interesting sidelights on the Odyssey will be provided by Sophocles’ ancient tragedy Aias and by Margaret Atwood’s modern version The Penelopiad.

About Professor Walker

STEVEN F. WALKER, Professor of Comparative Literature, holds degrees from the University of Wisconsin (B.A. in classical Greek) and Harvard (M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature). He teaches in both the graduate and undergraduate programs in Comparative Literature, and he is a direct descendent (really!) of Henry Rutgers. He has been reading Jung voraciously since his undergraduate days.