Coates reviews Edith Hall’s book The Return of Ulysses. Hall studies The Odyssey’s cultural legacy, from Vergil to Derek Walcott. Viewing the poem as an “ancestral text,” she explores its reception by several novelists, poets, filmmakers, theorists, artists, and more. She demonstrates how creative minds throughout the ages have used the cultural authority of The Odyssey to explore the pressing issues of the day.
Fagles talks about the twenty years he spent translating Homer, the challenges of rendering Homeric Greek into a poetic English idiom, and the relevance of Homer’s poetry for modern audiences. Following the interview, he and actors Jason Robards and Catherine Walker perform dramatic readings from Fagles’s translation of The Odyssey, published in 1996.
Doerries compares Odysseus’s return home from the Trojan War to Ithaca to modern soldiers and their struggles to readjust to civilian life. For example, The Odyssey anticipates the disconnect between military veterans and the general populace whose most common experience of war is through entertainment. The article also touches on drug abuse and other issues.
Three distinguished professors of classical studies discuss the reasons why The Odyssey has had such a profound influence on Western literature and culture. They examine the deeper meanings of Odysseus’s wanderings and experiences. They also explore the Homeric question—i.e., how the poem was composed, when, and by whom.
Margaret Atwood and Phyllida Lloyd discuss their collaboration on a stage version of Atwood’s novel The Penelopeiad. It represents the story of The Odyssey from different points of view—that of Penelope and the 12 maids who Odysseus hanged upon his return to Ithaca. The play shows how gender and class can shape perspectives and change our understanding of a classic text.
The University of Pennsylvania offers an interactive map of Odysseus’s route home. Homer’s geography and ethnography has fantastical elements and only roughly corresponds to the Mediterranean realities. Homer’s contemporaries were seafaring peoples engaged in trade and colonization and so had a great interest in travel literature. This site helps the modern reader track Odysseus’s movements throughout the poem.
A classics professor teaching The Odyssey encounters a particularly difficult student—his 82-year-old father. Through a close reading of the text and a subsequent cruise of the Mediterranean following Odysseus’s route, the author learns about his father and himself and about life’s journey and its conclusion. This personal account shows with humor and insight into how the nearly 3,000-year-old poem can be intensely meaningful to modern readers.