September 19th: The Odyssey, A True Love Story

October 19th Discussion Question(1.5 hour, setting up my journal): (I have answered each question in different ways while still addressing the overarching themes in books 1–6) Each date I have discussed a new topic relating to the question below.

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?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?

October 12th (Information Lab, 3 hours reading and writing): Hours upon hours of writing and studying happened today. But the Odyssey was a good relief. Completing the reading, book 1–3, I can confidently say I HATE the suitors and am awaiting there death patiently. When Antinous, at the assembly remarks:

“Telemachus, you blowhard, unrestrained in fury, what kind of thing
OD.2.86 you’ve said, defaming us, as you wished to fasten blame.
OD.2.87 But the Achaean suitors aren’t at all at fault regarding you, but your beloved mother is, who exceedingly knows wiles.
OD.2.89 For it’s the third year already, and the fourth is coming soon,
OD.2.90 since she’s wronged the heart in the Achaeans’ chests.
OD.2.91 She offers hope to all, and makes promises to each man,
OD.2.92 sending messages, but her mind is intent on other things.
OD.2.93 In her mind she devised this other trick.
OD.2.94 She set up a great web in the palace, delicate and long-threaded,
OD.2.95 started to weave, then soon said among us:
OD.2.96 ???Young men, my suitors, since Odysseus has died,
OD.2.97 wait, though eager for my wedding, until I can complete
OD.2.98 this cloth, lest my weaving be ruined and in vain,

There are a few things in this stanza I would like to point out. First the gathering of the Greeks is eerily similar to how the Iliad started. With a assembly to discuss the fate of Chrysis, it was also what prompted the end of the Trojan War. The response of Antinous to Telemachus is foreshadowing the suitors doom who play nepios or the fools in this story just like Agememnon. As the stanza continues I have also gone ahead and included Penelope’s plot, in order to draw more attention to her as a character. Her active nature in avoiding the marriage bed is telling to the high regards in which she holds her marriage, she has refused even after 20 years to cease hope. Is it because of her relationship with Odysseus or rather her lack of want. This female perspective is interesting thus far in the Odyssey because it is more explicit, than we saw in the Iliad with characters like Helen. This look into Penelope as a wife and queen is something to keep an eye for as we continue reading. We can also use it as a comparison to Helen and Menelaus relationship, in which they do not share homophrosune.

October 13th and 14th (2 hours, 2 lunch breaks, Sometime over the weekend): In another class we have been re-writing Ovid’s creation story from a different perspective. Throughout the process we have examined what other characters might be thinking and feeling, through implications made in the text. This process has given me a unique understanding of the story and the implications and assumptions we as readers make from the reading. Relating this process back to Homer, we see his view of female characters is somewhat warped when you read the text as it comes. Applying this same concept I have chosen Helen’s “war story” to Telemachus to reinterpret from her husband, Menelaus perspective.

Original Text:

“He entered the Trojan city like that, and everyone ignored him.
OD.4.250 I alone recognized him, such as he was,
OD.4.251 and I questioned him, but he eluded me with cunning.
OD.4.252 But when at last I’d bathed him and anointed him with olive oil,
OD.4.253 dressed clothing about him, and swore a great oath
OD.4.254 not to make him known among the Trojans as Odysseus
OD.4.255 before he reached his huts and swift ships,
OD.4.256 right then he told me in detail the Achaeans’ intent.
OD.4.257 He then killed many of the Trojans with sharp bronze,
OD.4.258 went back among the Argives, and brought back much information.
OD.4.259 Then the rest of the Trojan women shrieked loudly, but my heart
OD.4.260 rejoiced, since by now my heart had changed about going
OD.4.261 back home and I regretted my mad blindness, that Aphrodite gave me,

Menelaus perspective: “Here my wife starts again, she can be so vain. In her eyes she is the sole conspirator to ending the great Trojan War. Oh wait, here comes my favorite part, when she talks about bathing another man. Why does she always mention her other suitors. I am her husband and she is solely mine. But I feel I have shared her with the world. I curse Aphrodite in my heart, but will never with my voice because in the back of my mind I believe she wanted to go. Making the “mad blindness” but a farce.”

This re-telling of the story I believe portrays what Helen and Menelaus relationship really is about, tolerating each other. Through the use of nepenthe: a drug of forgetfulness, they have become content with forgetting what has happened and moving on with life. I do not believe they are in love or are close to one another. They do not share homophrosune.

October 17 (In Class, 1.5 hours): Class today was very interesting. As I have mentioned in previous post I believe the Odyssey is humorous, unlike the Iliad. Our discussion in class focused around the male and female relationships in Homer. Drawing from both epics how they compared and how they were different. A few to mention were Menelaus and Helen, because we meet them again. Penelope and Odysseus and how that is compared to Calypso and Odysseus.

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?

October 18th (Seminar on Niobe at the Center for Hellenic Studies, 7 p.m.-9 p.m.- because I do not get enough Roman and Greek Literature in my week as is): The seminar was great, we had pizza and sodas and spoke about Phyllis Wheatley. In all my years at Howard I had no idea that this poet died at such a young age and of poverty. That realization was sad especially after reading the last line of her poem: “One only daughter lives, and she the least; The queen close clasp’d the daughter to her breast: Ye heav’nly pow’rs, ah spare me one, the vocal hills reply’d: In vain she begs, the Fates her suit deny, In her embrace she sees her daughter die.” It seems like an eery foreshadow to her ultimate end.

Another topic I would like to mention is the connection we drew from Book 24 of the Iliad to Queen Niobe. That last stanza I posted could be echo’s of Priam’s speech to Achilles. We were given three different versions and translations of Book 24 and I enjoyed the changing of the text and how different they each were. Each author interpreted the grief in there own way and it showed in the word choice.

October 19th (Conclusion, 3 hours to complete my Medium Post): Overall, I have really enjoyed all of the reading and writing for both my Roman lit and Greek lit class this week. They have overlapped and seeing the connection between both was fun. I never thought I would enjoy the classics so much but these are my two favorite classes this semester.

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