Literature: Writers in Ancient Greece
‘Sing to me of the man, Muse … start from where you will—sing for our time too.’ Homer has been doing just that for about 2700 years. It is impossible to consider the canon of Western literature without acknowledging the debt owed Homer. In addition to the entertainment value of action and romance told through the depiction of many complex characters — archetypal characters who are yet enigmatic and beyond archetypal boundaries — we have the gift of brilliant architecture and and a clear, direct and absolute control of narrative. We also have the gift of insight: through Homer, writing in the Archaic age about a mythic Heroic age, we get a glimpse of how the ancient Greeks viewed their world. How human beings behaved towards one another was a matter not only of whether or not one survived in Homer’s time, but how one was spoken of in perpetuity. In his story — a weaving together of many old tales — Homer introduces us to Greek ethical and cultural traditions the development of which we chart in the rest of the work read during the semester. During the course of the semester, in three units — Unit 1: Epic Poetry: Homer’s The Odyssey; Unit 2: Archilochus and Sappho: The Emergence of the Personal Voice; and Unit 3: The Great Tragic Poets.