Friday, July 21, 2006

An Odyssey in Reading

I have been reading Homer’s The Odyssey this summer. I will be teaching it in the fall. Usually I avoid work related reading during the ephemeral and fleeting summer months. However, I have been meaning to read this classic of Western literature for a number of years. I think my hesitancy to engage Homer was a result of my fear of the text. In the hidden depths of my being, I think I subconsciously perceived that The Odyssey and The Iliad were scholarly and enigmatic masterpieces that exceeded my ordinary and average cerebrum.

My subconscious, however, was wrong. The epic poem is a delight to read. It is very accessible and at times (surprisingly) very simplistic. I discovered that Homer was writing long before the absurd and truly enigmatic prose of the 20th century post-moderns. In stead of harping on complex and psychologically deformed anti-heroes of modern prose, Homer addresses themes and issues that ring true to the very centre of our humanity. As a Christian reader, I am given insight into a truly human hero, Odysseus, and I can compare and contrast this view with the truly divine Christ-hero.

Homer is not high brow. He is for the Everyman. Take up and read, Everyman.

(Robert Fagles’s recent poetic translation comes highly recommended. See also Peter Leithart’s Heroes of the City of Man for Christian commentary of Homer and other classic works)

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