Emily R. Wilson (Professor of Classical Studies, University of Pennsylvania)
January 23, 2020
It can be daunting to think about how to make students feel engaged when reading a poem that is almost three thousand years old. Emily Wilson will discuss ways to enable students to recognize the central relevance of the Odyssey’s themes for contemporary cultural themes and questions, such as cultural difference, migration, gender, class, violence, conservatism, identity and agency — while also recognizing the poem’s historical distance and strangeness. She will discuss specific challenges facing teachers of the poem in translation, especially in cases when the instructor has not read the original. She will explore ways to enable students to engage with the poetic and literary texture of the poem, rather than only abstracting its “themes”. She’ll suggest that teaching The Odyssey can invite students to grapple with the relationship of the past to the present, and raise in the classroom questions that face all humanities disciplines, like point of view and how much it matters who tells or owns a story, and how we define communities.