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The Odyssey. Author and Background Information. What is at risk?. Simple: The Fate of a Nation. ( Ithaka , to be precise). Main Character: Odysseus. Witty Strong and well built Handsome and does quite well with the women. Intelligent

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the odyssey
The Odyssey

Author and Background Information

what is at risk
What is at risk?
  • Simple:

The Fate of a Nation.

(Ithaka, to be precise)

main character odysseus
Main Character: Odysseus
  • Witty
  • Strong and well built
  • Handsome and does quite well with the women.
  • Intelligent
  • Manages to get out of bad situations with his cleverness.
  • He appears superhuman, yet flawed.
supplemental characters
Supplemental Characters
  • His wife, Penelope.
  • His son, Telemachus.
  • Suitors: This is a term for people who court or try to woo another.
  • Eurykleia, Odysseus and Telemakhos’ nurse
supplemental characters cont
Supplemental Characters (cont.)
  • Laertes, Odysseus’ father.
  • His Crew
  • Many others as he travels; keep track of who is who and who is connected/related to whom. It will save you lots of re-reading!
other important background info
Other Important Background Info
  • Akhaians or Danaans = the Greeks.
    • You will hear Telemakhos call to them or criticize them. It is just another name of the Greeks to distinguish them from the Trojans.
  • This takes place in Greece and throughout the Mediterranean world.
  • Time estimates for this journey are varied
  • Most scholars place the story telling to be over 3,000 years old.
  • Talk about writing a 3,000-year-best-seller! Phew!
epic a long narrative poem on a serious subject
Epic: a long narrative poem on a serious subject
  • Epic poet begins in the middle of the action – “in-medias res”
  • Tells significant prior events through flashback
  • Begins with an invocation to the muses (Calliope is muse of epic poetry)
  • Each line is the same poetic meter (dactylic hexameter!)
epic structure devices
Epic Structure Devices:

Some things you are familiar with:

  • similesandmetaphors
  • epithets
  • symbols and omens
  • repetition
    • This is a function of the fact that


epic structure devices cont
Epic Structure Devices: (cont.)

Some things you may not be so familiar with:

  • long speechesandlittle dialogue
  • catalogues
    • great listing of people, especially in battle sequence
  • Digressions
    • Moving away from the topic at hand to discuss something related, often from the past or tied to the matter at hand in some way, but still off topic. (The phrase, “And I digress” means you’ve gotten away from your point.)
  • Dactylic Hexameter = a form of poetic meter or rhyme scheme
    • The meter consists of lines made from six ("hexa") feet.
    • A “dactyl” is a long syllable followed by two short syllables, as determined by syllable weight.
      • A useful mnemonic for remembering this long-short-short pattern is to consider the relative lengths of the three bones of a human finger: beginning at the knuckle, it is one long bone followed by two shorter ones (hence the name "dactyl").
elements that make it a classic
Elements that make it a “Classic”
  • Creation of characters with uncomplicated motives
  • Actions that are true to Human Nature
  • Plots that blend the joys of living with the tragic sense of life.
  • Long, musical lines (in the original Greek or in a poetry translation)
elements included in epics
Elements included in epics:
  • people of importance to society
  • national hero
  • monsters - for the purpose of playing up the good traits of the hero
  • fate of a nation (ex. Ithaca)
  • setting of worldwide scope (ex. Mediterranean world)
  • journeys or quests
  • tests for the hero
  • divine intervention
hero has outstanding traits of that nationality
Hero has outstanding traits of that nationality:
  • intelligent and clever
  • courageous
  • strong and well built
  • performs heroic feats
  • wants to defeat evil
  • adventuresome
  • manages to get out of every bad situation using his cleverness
  • faithful to family, country and gods
why read it
Why Read it?

 These are the lasting and enduring lessons we aim to take from this reading:

  • The Oral Tradition and its devices were used to explain and teach natural and religious origins, political origins, history of culture, and acceptable behavior for society.
  • Understanding how an epic poem is structure and the devices it employs enables full appreciation of its message.
  • Epic heroes are both courageous, intelligent leaders and flawed humans; they reflect the culture from which they emerge.
  • An odyssey takes one well beyond the familiar geography and explore the boundaries of human psyche and human society both literally and figuratively.
  • An individual’s understanding of self, his interaction with others and the world form his identity. 
  • Home is a vital link to one's past, present, and future.
  • Let’s read the opening together to get a feel for the dactylic hexameter!