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CL 190 Trojan War and Travels of Odysseus (Main)

The Iliad, the Odyssey, and their Influence: The primary purpose of this class is to introduce two of the earliest and (arguably) most influential works of Western literature, Homer's Iliad and the Odyssey.

. Creative Reinterpretations (modern)

1. Art works:

“Black Odyssey” Focus of Carlos Museum’s Romare Bearden Exhibit. 12 Dec. 2013, 

“Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Offers Journey through American Artist Romare Bearden’s ‘Black Odyssey.’” Smithsonian Institution

2. Films:

3. Novels:

4. Play:

Part IIB. Creative Reinterpretations (ancient)

tragedies that are particularly interesting as responses to Iliad/Odyssey

We will read 4 this course, 2 by Sophocles (Ajax, Philoctetes) and 2

*Euripides, Helen. In this play, which is set immediately after the fall of Troy, Helen never went to Troy at all but has been languishing in Egypt while the Trojans and Greeks have been fighting for 10 years over a phantom that resembles her exactly. The new king of Egypt is wooing her when Menelaus lands by chance on his way home from the war. The traditional characterization of Helen is reshaped in this "escape" play, which is more akin to comedy than to tragedy in many respects. (On reserve for this course in Woodruff Library > Euripides II.)

*Aeschylus, Agamemnon. The first play in Aeschylus' famous Oresteia trilogy, this tragedy recounts the return of Agamemnon to Argos and his murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra in revenge for his sacrifice of their daughter Iphigenia (as well as for other reasons) On the long and challenging side, but utterly brilliant and well worth reading in my opinion! Cassandra also plays a small role in this play so it's interesting to learn a little more about her than is given in either the Iliad or the Odyssey. (On reserve for this course in Woodruff Library > Aeschylus II.)

*Euripides, Trojan Women. This tragedy gives the account of the Trojan War from the perspective of the Trojan Women who suffered most from its consequences. Euripides' greatest anti-war tragedy (in my opinion). (On reserve for this course in Woodruff Library > Euripides.)

Euripides, Hecuba. The sad story of Hecuba, mother of Hector and wife of Priam. (On reserve for this course in Woodruff Library > Euripides.)

Euripides, Andromache. (On reserve for this course in Woodruff Library > Euripides.)

Euripides, Iphigeneia among the Taurians. Like Euripides' Helen, this play imagines an entirely different reality for Iphigeneia. In this play, instead of dying when 

to Homer, in general:

  • Aeschylus, Agamemnon (tragedy). The first play in Aeschylus’ famous Oresteia trilogy, this offers a fascinating account of Agamemnon’s return from Troy. Challenging, especially for students who have never read an ancient Greek tragedy before, but I highly recommend it for students who like this kind of challenge. Let me know if you need help locating a translation.
  • Euripides (Greek tragedian) wrote many plays on Homeric themes. We will read two particularly innovative plays by Euripides, The Cyclops and the Iphigeneia at Aulis (in Euripides II) but I also highly recommend Trojan Women (posted to LL in PDF) and Iphigeneia at Aulis for devotees of Greek tragedy. These are both highly effective tragedies that offer strikingly modern takes on women, war, and democracy. Let me know if you need help locating a translation.
  • Ovid (Roman poet, 43 BC-AD 17), Heroides 1 (Penelope to Ulysses), 3 (Briseis to Achilles), 16 & 17 (Paris to Helen, Helen to Paris) (these are poems purporting to be letters between these legendary pairs of lovers from Homer). Ovid also reinterprets various parts of the Homeric epics in his other poems, especially Metamorphoses 13. I have posted all of the 4 Heroides poems and Metamorphoses, Book 13 in pdf format to our Learnlink site.
  • Sophocles (Greek tragedian, 500-406 BC), Ajax, Philoctetes (tragedies). Interesting dramatizations of events surrounding the Trojan War with striking new interpretations of some major characters. In Sophocles II: Four Tragedies (purchased for this class).
  • Virgil (Roman poet, 70-19 BC), Aeneid: (large-scale epic, originally written in Latin). This is a work of great complexity, best handled by someone who knows something already about Virgil and/or Roman history or literature or who is very interested in knowing a lot and willing to work hard. You will only be able to present a small sample from this great work. We will read Aeneid, Book 2 together (PDF on LL)
  • Derek Walcott (West Indian poet, 1930-present), Omeros (1990). Long, beautiful, complex poem by a recent Nobel prize winner. You will only be able to present a small sample of this great work. On 3-day reserve.

primarily to the Iliad:

  • W.H. Auden, (British poet, 1907-73) “The Shield of Achilles,” (lyric poem). pdf
  • Constantine Cavafy (Greek poet, 1863-1933), “Trojans,” “Priam’s Speeding Forth at Night,” “The Funeral of Sarpedon,” “The Horses of Achilles,” “Unfaithfulness,” (lyric poems). Some on LL site, others can be found in his collected works.
  • H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) (American poet & novelist, 1886-1961), Helen in Egypt, an extended series of short poems & reflections, retelling the story of Helen. My office. Also short lyric poems: “Thetis,” (2), “Why Have You Sought?” “Helen,” “After Troy.”
  • Christopher Logue (British poet, 1926-present), War Music (1981), Kings (Iliad 1 & 2) (1991), The Husbands (Iliad 3 &4) (1994) (poetic “translations.” Logue comments “Not...a proper translation, but what I hope will turn out to be a poem in English dependent on the Iliad.”)
  • David Malouf, Ransom: A Novel (2009). Recent novel by one of Australia’s greatest writers that retells the end of the Iliad. Available through local bookstores or on line.
  • Simone Weil, (French essayist, 1909-43) “The Iliad or The Poem of Force.” Passionate and provocative essay, something of a classic in its own right Translation from the French by Mary McCarthy available in Critical Essays on Homer, Atchity (ed.). A new biography of Weil, a complex and intriguing figure, by Francine du Plessix Gray, has recently been published, a review of which can be found in The New York Times Book Review. Or see reviews of book at for a general sense of who Weil was. pdf on LL.
  • Christa Wolf (East German novelist, 1929-present), Cassandra (1983). Novel that retells Trojan story from point of view of a Trojan woman with feminist and anti-nuclear political agenda.