You don’t have to be very familiar with Homer’s The Odyssey to be enchanted by Madeline Miller’s detailed, fully imagined, and beautifully written life story of literature’s first witch (pharmakis). From her first potion to her last, Circe is a detailed portrait of a misfit admirably struggling to find herself and her place among the gods and humans. Central to the story is Circe’s gradual discovery of what it means to be human and truly heroic. Miller’s novel adds a powerful chapter to the many tales spawned by Homer’s epic.
We will review the relevant sections from Homer’s Odyssey. There are many gods and goddesses and nymphs, etc. in Miller’s first chapters. Treat them as you would any background characters in a modern novel; most will not reappear. Reading assignment for the first class: first seven chapters. Class Limit: 20
Instructor Maryanne Ward chaired the Kenyon College (Gambier, OH) Humanities program and served as academic dean until moving to Centre College (Danville, KY) as professor of English and chair of their Humanities program. Her area of special interest and scholarship is 19th-century British and Russian literature. As part of interdisciplinary programs at both colleges she taught Greek and Roman culture and philosophy. For the final 12 years of her career she taught Homer’s Odyssey each fall. In 1995 she participated in an intensive study program and tour of classical Greek sites.
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