The Epic Hero in Ancient Literature—the Iliad

Spring 2014

The purpose of this course is to read the Iliad while at the same time developing and practicing methods and approaches to close reading and interpretation. We will practice reading carefully and well—as well as reading the same text quickly and slowly—all with the intention of learning how to read out of a text, instead of into a text.

This course will be inter-institutional, in that you might be in a working group with students from Howard University, Sweet Briar College, USM, or Elon University. Some portion of this course’s materials will be based on Professor Greg Nagy’s work as found in his published material and his HeroesX online course.

Nearly every week, we will all read two books of the Iliad. Nearly every week a member of your working group will post an answer to the assigned writing prompt between Tuesday morning and Thursday at noon. After Thursday at noon, the rest of the group will respond twice with substantial responses either to that initial post or the other responses in the forum before Saturday night at midnight ET. In addition, during the week, you will be watching videos or reading additional material as it is assigned.

In our Monday evening inter-institutional synchronous session on Google Hangout, representatives from two different working groups will summarize the forum thread that week, while the rest watch the YouTube stream.

For philology is that venerable art which exacts from its followers one thing above all — to step to one side, to leave themselves spare moments, to grow silent, to become slow — the leisurely art of the goldsmith applied to language: an art which must carry out slow, fine work, and attains nothing if not lento. Thus philology is now more desirable than ever before; thus it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of ‘work’: that is, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-skurry, which is so eager to ‘get things done’ at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not so hurriedly ‘get things done.’ It teaches how to read well, that is, slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes.

—F. Nietzsche Daybreak, Preface 5
trans. J.M Kennedy