Greek Literature In English
Weekly Journal #9 (10/20/2015–10/26/2015)

Date: 10/20/2015
Beginning time: approx. 2:00 pm
Ending time: 3:30 pm
Duration (hrs.): 1.5
Location: Locke Hall, room 118

Today was a rough day.

Earlier in the day, as I tried to catch up on my weekly journal writing, I started to have some technical difficulties. It left me inaccessible to a computer to finish writing my journal, and it left me incapable of taking notes (needless to say, I rely heavily on my personal computer). So, during class today, I wasn’t able to participate in the discussions or read along with the class because I had no access to my notes. I did manage, however, to jot down the Greek terms on a sheet of paper to refer to later.

Date: 10/22/2015
Beginning time: 8:30 am
Ending time: 1:45 pm
Duration (hrs.): 6
Location: Towers — East

This week has been rough.

Long story short, I went away this past weekend on a camping trip and (obviously) had no access to the Internet, putting me behind on my required reading, not only for Greek Lit, but for all of my classes. I’ve been trying to play “catch-up” on all my required readings for all my classes, and so I was finally able to catch up on my Greek Lit reading today… quiz day. I made sure to wake up at a decent hour so I could get an early start on the poem. I started with Book 3 and did my best to hammer out four Books by 2:10 pm.

Reading reflections

In Book 3, Telemachus set sail for Pylos, where he meets up with Nestor. Along with Athena (who Telemachus still thinks is Mentor) finds Nestor praying to Poseidon. With open arms (hospitality has been a major theme so far… possibly an exam question?), Nestor offers to Telemachus and Mentor food and libations. They all then pray to Poseidon along with Nestor’s son, Peisistratos, who asks Athena to make a prayer as well. S/he prays to Poseidon to honor Nestor and his sons in Pylos; because she is a goddess, she fulfills the prayer herself.

Telemachus is there to find answers about his father, so asking Nestor where is father is is a good start. Nestor spends some time thoroughly explaining the fates of the Greeks after the end of the Trojan War, describing how Athena would not allow the Greeks to return home, causing the Achaians to scatter. Odysseus went with Menelaos and other men on ships to set sail back home, while Agamemnon and some men stayed in Troy to make sacrifices to the goddess in hopes of mercy. Both parties’ plans were unsuccessful, and as a result, Odysseus strayed from the rest of the Greeks and roamed the seas.

Continuing with the storytelling, Telemachus asks Nestor how Agamemnon died. Nestor explains that story as well (we all know how that story went…). Before Telemachus and Mentor depart, Athena reveals herself and takes the shape of an eagle, only after promising to watch over Telemachus and his crew.

Book 4, from my perspective, is much like Book 3. Telemachus set sail to Lacademon to visit Menelaos, hopeful that he knows of his father’s whereabouts. Telemachus finds Menelaos preparing the wedding of his son and daughter. We also see Helen again, after being returned to Menelaos. She drugs the men as they sit around and eat, inducing drowsiness. Menelaos offers to Telemachus a series of presents, including a horse and chariot; however, Telemachus refuses to accept the gift.

Meanwhile, in the land of Odysseus, Neomon asks Antinoos when Telemachus will be back from Pylos. Antinoos, unaware of his travels, becomes infuriated and betrayed, so he rounds up the rest of the suitors and takes a ship to sea to find and kill Telemachus. Medon, who is essentially the neighborhood snitch, overhears Antinoos’ plan and tells Penelope. She is frightened by this, and she prays to Athena that her son will be okay. Upon Penelope’s slumber, Athena sends an image of her sister, Iphthime, to her in her sleep, who says that Telemachus will return home safely.

How would you describe the relationship between Menelaus and Helen after returning from the Trojan War? Are they in love? Are they close to one another?

Menelaos and Helen’s relationship was very awkward to me. Perhaps I’m basing this response off of how I would feel if I were Menelaos, but I felt as though Menelaos is angry with Helen. If he is angry, it’s understandable: she caused a war, and put herself, her husband, and her townspeople at risk of death. I don’t sense love between the two. I think at this point, they tolerate each other.

Let’s discuss Book 5. We see Homer focus on Odysseus in Book 5, as opposed to focusing on Telemachus. (Dr. Sandridge mentioned in class that readers of Homeric literature believed that the first four Books of The Odyssey were a separate poem specifically about Telemachus, unrelated to Odysseus’ journey home.)

Book 5 begins with the gods on Olympus. Zeus commands Hermes to go to Calypso, the nymph who kidnapped Odysseus and held him captive, and convince her to free him. Calypso, believing that it is unfair that she must give up Odysseus and her sexual habits with him, agrees to let him go. Odysseus is found staring into the sea and weeping. Calypso helps him build a boat for him to use to leave. She also gives him food, water, and wine for his journey to Phaeacia.

As Odysseus is traveling home, Poseidon sees him in the ocean. Poseidon is angry with Odysseus and tries to drown him by summoning a massive storm. Odysseus is thrown from his boat and struggles to stay afloat in the pressure from the waves, but is kept alive by the goddess Ino. Ino gives Odysseus a veil (similar to a life jacket) that helps him drift to the Phaeacian shore. Odysseus, exhausted and hungry after drifting for days, immediately makes shelter on the shore under two olive bushes and a pile of leaves.

How does Calypso compare to the other goddesses in the Iliad or Athena in the Odyssey? What are her motives? How does she influence the plot of the Odyssey?

It’s difficult for me to compare Calypso to any other goddess in The Iliad. For me, the only projection of her personality is from her conversation with Hermes, in which she explains how there essentially is a double standard with the way gods are allowed to sleep with moral women but goddesses are not allowed to sleep with mortal men. She makes a very valid point, and I think it’s interesting that such double standards existed in Homeric times, and can apply to deities as well as mortals.

How strongly does Odysseus want to go home at this point in the story? What to you explains his desire to go home?

We know that Odysseus wants to go home badly. We see in Book 5 Odysseus crying and staring out into the ocean, suggesting that his desire to see his son, wife, and townspeople is very strong. Odysseus’ desire to go home is so strong, that he is no longer assumed by the beauty of Calypso and her island; his heart and mind are no longer swayed to stay with Calypso.

Let’s move on to Book 6.

Athena travels to Phaeacia and finds Nausicaa, the daughter of Alcinous, king of Phaeacia, sleeping in her bed. Athena implants a dream in her head, urging Nausicaa to start considering marriage. Athena also tells her to wash her clothes the next morning. When Nausicaa wakes up, she borrows her father’s carriage and travels to a nearby lake with her handmaidens.

As she is washing clothes and enjoying her company, Odysseus wakes up to the sound of Nausicaa and her handmaidens speaking and laughing. Entirely nude, he approaches the women. All the handmaidens run in fear from the naked, dirty man, except for Nausicaa, for she was given courage by Athena. He, too, is distracted by Nausicaa’s beauty, and he immediately sinks to her knees and begs for clean clothing. She agrees to give him clothes, as well as oil for him to bathe with. After Odysseus cleans himself and gets dressed, Nausicaa gives him directions to the king and queen’s palace, and she departs with her handmaidens.

How does Nausicaa compare to Calypso and Penelope?

Nausicaa is similar to and different from Calypso and Penelope. We know that Calypso is a goddess, whereas Nausicaa is a mortal woman. We also know that Nausicaa wants a husband, wehereas Calypso, seemingly, does not desire a husband. But we know that all three women — Nausicaa, Calypso, and Penelope — are very attractive (which tells me that Odysseus has great taste in women).

Are the Phaeacians heroic? Is there king a good leader?

At this point, the Phaeacians have some heroic characteristics to them. While they are described as not having the best warriors, they are very hospitable to sailors and are good with building ships. Their king, Alcinous, seems like a good king, but it is hard to describe him as such at this point.

Date: 10/22/2015
Beginning time: approx. 2:00 pm
Ending time: 3:30 pm
Duration (hrs.): 1.5
Location: Locke Hall, room 118

Today in class, we talked about critical thinking in the classroom. Dr. Sandridge cited researchers and professors who have testified that students today do not think critically in the classroom, and in a way, it is because professors do not challenge them to do so. Professors are instructed to teach the material in a way that allows students to perform well on the final exam — anything outside of that objective is ignored. To be “excellent sheep,” as Dr. Sandridge said, is what America’s educational system prepares students to become.

Unfortunately, he is right. As a business major, I can testify that the business school rarely challenges or encourages us to think critically inside the classroom. But I also think that because of the natural human tendency to practice subjectivity more than objectivity, a professor that grades or examines a student’s ability to think critically will show bias in his or her grading practices. Not to say that a professor can’t grade a student’s ability to think critically, it is easier to grade a student on their ability to recite facts. I imagine it takes more effort on the professor’s part to grade a student based on his or her critical thinking skills, but I do believe that students will benefit in the long run from opportunities to think critically in the classroom.

Date: 10/27/2015
Beginning time: 12:00 am
Ending time: 12:30 am
Duration (hrs.): .5
Location: Towers — East

I typically try not to begin reading this late at night, but, as usual, my workload got the best of me. I wasn’t feeling too tired at midnight, so I figured I could use the last bit of energy and focus I had for the night to knock out some reading for The Odyssey. And so I did just that.

I began Book 7, and my oh my — it was incredibly short! I genuinely enjoy these short Books; for me, it’s much easier to concentrate on the material, and it makes me more anxious to read it, because I know that the end of the chapter is soon approaching. Finishing a Book is like a milestone for me, and these short, quick-to-read Books are definitely mood-boosters.

Reading reflections

In Book 7, Odysseus makes his way to Alcinous’ palace with the help of Athena, who, disguised as a handmaiden woman holding a pitcher, led the way for him. Once he arrived to the palace, Athena tells him to look for Arete, Alcinous’ wife. She then departs. Odysseus entered the palace and was amazed by its beauty. He was mostly impressed by Alcinous’ garden, which Homer described as having a plethora of ripe fruit and fresh herbs.

Odysseus finally finds Arete eating dinner with her husband and the elders of the town. The room was silent at first when they first saw Odysseus, and he immediately begged the king and queen for help in returning home safely. The room remained quiet, until an elder by the name of Echeneus urged Alcinous to show Odysseus hospitality. Alcinous did just that. Arete noticed that the clothing that Odysseus was wearing looked similar to clothing that she and her handmaidens made. Odysseus explains to the two of how he arrived to their island.

Why does Odysseus agree to tell his story to the Phaeacians?

I think Odysseus agreed to tell his story for two main reasons. The first reason is because of hospitality. In return for Alcinous’ and Arete’s hospitality, the least he could do is tell the two how and why he arrived on their island. I believe he also told his story to sway the two into helping him return home. We know that Odysseus is a crafty orator and that his ability to capture the hearts of his audience is uncanny. Much like someone telling a “sob story” to gain sympathy, Odysseus could have been trying to do the same thing with Alcinous and Arete.

Date: 10/27/2015
Beginning time: 10:20 am
Ending time: 11:20 am
Duration (hrs.): 1
Location: Ernest Just Hall

I had some time to begin reading Book 8 between my first and second classes of my day. I figured it’d be a good time to catch up on my reading (because for some reason I’m always behind on that).

Reading reflections

Alcinous, Odysseus, and the rest of the members of the king’s palace awaken. The bulk of the Book involves Odysseus mingling with the Phaeacians. Demodocus, a musician who plays the lyre, plays songs about the Greeks and the Trojan War. His songs make Odysseus cry, but no one notices this except for Alcinous.

Alcinous’ three sons, Laodamas, Halius, and Clytoneus, enter into challenges and races with other Phaeacian men, which included foot racing, wrestling, jumping, discus throwing, and boxing. Laodamas challenges Odysseus to the games, and Eurylaus insuts Odysseus for refusing to join the games. To prove his prowess, Odysseus throws a discus, which surpasses every other thrown discus. Odysseus proves his strength to the townspeople. Alcinous communicates to Odysseus that the Phaeacians are not warriors, but rather experts in dance and seafaring. To prove this, he commands women to dance and Demodocus to play his lyre — this impresses Odysseus.

Alcinous gives Odysseus gifts for his departure. Euryalus gives Odysseus a sword, and Alcinous gives him a golden goblet. Demodocus sings another song for Odysseus, this one about the Trojan horse. Odysseus immediately begins weeping; Homer compares his weeping to that of a woman who lost her husband in battle and is crying over his dead body. Alcinous asks Odysseus why we weeps when he hears songs about the Greeks.