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The Odyssey of Homer

Take a detailed look at Homer's ancient Greek masterpiece of adventure.

The Odyssey of Homer is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 145.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Odyssey of Homer It was wonderful to discover that the Odyssey is a thoroughly enjoyable and easy to understand story that gives a rich glimpse into the ancient Greek way of life. The professor is engaging, organized in her presentation and easy to listen to.
Date published: 2024-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Most Excellent Years ago I listened to the audio books of The Iliad and The Odyssey. I find works of this type much more accessible as audio books than to read. I find when working with books of this degree of difficulty that reading the book as I listen to the audio very beneficial. This worked very well with The Divine Comedy, The Aeneid, etc. Of course, finding matching translations can be a challenge at times. I watched Professor Vandiver’s class on Classical Mythology (again most excellent) and discovered she also had done one on The Odyssey. I really wish she and Great Courses had done one on The Iliad. It is very obvious that Professor Vandiver has a great love for this subject and of its literature. It came through in aces. She has a wonderful style of teaching. Both of her classes with The Great Courses could have been very dry and pedantic, but definitely were not. Both were very engaging. I enjoyed my earlier encounter of both The Iliad and The Odyssey, but lacked the necessary background to totally appreciate and understand what I was listening to. Professor Vandiver filled in many of those gaps. She is very good at explaining the nuances of various passages. She reminds us that the sensibilities 2500 years ago were different than today. In fact she so inspired me that I am listening to The Odyssey again and thoroughly enjoying it, and I find myself saying, “yeah that was what she was talking about.” Librivox.org is a good source for FREE audio books that are in the public domain. They use volunteer readers, most are good, some are excellent, and, regrettably, some are duds. The Odyssey (Version 3) had an excellent reader and I am thoroughly enjoying it. The one caveat is that this is the Samuel Butler translation and he worked from the Latin so the gods have Latin names. No biggee. It is more prose than poem, but that makes it very accessible.
Date published: 2023-12-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Sufficient for a start I am an older person, an actor for 50 years, college graduate (Northwestern U.) who never got around to studying all the classics I wish I had. So I am a novice on this subject. I wanted to take an online course in preparation for delving into the text by myself, and was given this course as a gift. I found it helpful in a basic way. Obviously, professor Vandiver is a great authority on the subject and loves it. I got much information about plot and structure (all helpful), but not a sense of the poetry and a broad understanding of why this is essential literature. The professor’s delivery seems a bit rushed at times, as if she were aware of the 30 minute episode format, and has one habit of speech I found difficult: Every time she uses the article “the” before a word beginning with a vowel, like “Odyssey”, she pronounces it “thuh” not “thee” and, to the ears of a classically trained actor, it became annoying. I know this is probably a result of her particular dialect of American English and is a small point to most. I am only reporting my subjective response. I kept thinking “This is a classics professor?” Another annoying thing was the canned applause at the beginning and end of every lecture. It is the same applause, no variation. I know it is a live lecture because once in a while someone coughs or chuckles a bit but, having only the audio and not the video, that, too, was tiresome. The editors needed to be more creative. That was sloppy. Professor Vandiver does try to examine the complications of the emotional circumstances in which the characters find themselves and what they must be going through. For someone unfamiliar with doing this kind of work when examining a text this could be helpful, and even for someone like myself who has spent a lifetime doing it, it was a good reminder whether or not I might agree with all her interpretations. So, on the whole, I would say it is beneficial to beginners like myself, and I assume people who are advanced students of The Odyssey would not want or need to spend their time/money with it.
Date published: 2023-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course in the Great Courses I listened to two courses of Professor Vandiver--one on the Illiad, the other on the Odyssey. Both were just terrific. The presenter has a great storytelling style and conversational delivery that make the courses easy to listen to. And they were filled with such great insights. There was a nice balance between overview and detail; she would zoom out when suitable to provide needed background and then zoom in to concentrate on salient details. I would highly recommend both of these courses.
Date published: 2023-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, Perfect Level of Detail I thought the Professor did an excellent job of distilling and describing this ancient work. I had a far better grasp of the story and its themes than I did when we studied the book in school. She kept my attention and interest throughout. Recommended without reservations.
Date published: 2023-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth every minute! Elizabeth Vandiver is one of my favourite presenters. She speaks clearly, shows enthusiasm, explains just enough to keep things interesting without going into every last boring detail. Her lectures are great overviews of the subjects. Don't get me wrong, they aren't short (6-12 hours), so one feels like one learns enough to want to learn even more. Definitely recommend!
Date published: 2022-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary presentation This was a superbly delivered analysis of The Oddessey. Makes me want to learn more. Well organized and superbly presented
Date published: 2022-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely enlightening I had gone over this epic when an undergraduate student. Professor Vandiver does a super job in discussing this famous epic. I wish I had had her as a classics teacher.
Date published: 2022-08-24
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Overview

Take a detailed look at Homer's ancient Greek masterpiece of adventure. Professor Elizabeth Vandiver's The Odyssey of Homer focuses on timeless themes contained in the warrior Odysseus's voyage home through strange lands and encounters with gods, witches, warriors, and monsters. Explore the cultural assumptions that lie behind Homer's lines, weigh the poem's critical and interpretative issues, and come to view the Homeric world as a place of conflict, trial, and return that helps us answer the question of what it means to really live.

About

Elizabeth Vandiver

I think many of the stories that we tell ourselves as a society–the stories that encode our hopes, aspirations, and fears–preserve the traces of classical culture and myth and are part of our classical legacy.

INSTITUTION

Whitman College

Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her MA and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin.

Prior to taking her position at Maryland, she held visiting professorships at Northwestern University, the University of Georgia, the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, Loyola University of New Orleans, and Utah State University.

In 1998, The American Philological Association recognized her achievements as a lecturer with its Excellence in Teaching Award, the most prestigious teaching prize given to American classicists. In 2013 she received Whitman College's G. Thomas Edwards Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship. Her other awards include the Northwestern University Department of Classics Excellence in Teaching Award and two University of Georgia Outstanding Honors Professor Awards.

Professor Vandiver is the author of Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War and Heroes in Herodotus: The Interaction of Myth and History. She has also written numerous articles and has delivered many papers at national and international conferences.

By This Professor

Classical Mythology
854
Heroes' Homecomings

01: Heroes' Homecomings

After an overview of the background story, we examine the difference between a kleos epic such as The Iliad, with its primary focus on glory, and a nostos epic such as The Odyssey, which deals with homecoming. We then examine The Odyssey's own complicated chronology and plot.

33 min
Guests and Hosts

02: Guests and Hosts

This lecture defines and examines xenia, guest-host relations, which is a key concept in The Odyssey. How does xenia permeate the first four books of The Odyssey and affect our understanding of Telemachos and the suitors? Why does Homer continually evoke Agamemnon's story as a parallel to that of Odysseus? What drives Telemachos?

31 min
A Goddess and a Princess

03: A Goddess and a Princess

In this lecture, we examine the first appearance of Odysseus, in Book V, and his interaction with Kalypso and later the Phaiakian princess Nausikaa. The lecture focuses on the rhetorical skills of Odysseus, and on his desire to return home and re-establish his own identity. Finally, we discuss the ongoing thematic importance of xenia.

31 min
Odysseus among the Phaiakians

04: Odysseus among the Phaiakians

We see Odysseus as bard, relating a narrative of his adventures to his Phaiakian hosts. These lead us to ponder key themes of xenia and glory. We ask whether The Odyssey handles the latter theme the same way The Iliad does. Book IX brings us to the famous encounter with the Cyclops.

31 min
Odysseus Tells His Own Story

05: Odysseus Tells His Own Story

We continue following Odysseus's retelling of his "Great Wanderings." His encounter with Circe raises the issue of the sexual double standard in Homer. Finally, the lecture looks at the first half of the pivotal episode in the Great Wanderings, Odysseus's sojourn among the dead in Hades.

31 min
From Persephone's Land to the Island of Helios

06: From Persephone's Land to the Island of Helios

We note how Odysseus tailors his Hades narrative to his Phaiakian audience. A question has always troubled readers of Homer: Is Odysseus telling the truth?

29 min
The Goddess, the Swineherd, and the Beggar

07: The Goddess, the Swineherd, and the Beggar

This lecture begins our study of the second half of The Odyssey by discussing the change in pace and subject matter in the Ithakan books. From Book XIII onward, the pace is much slower, and the challenges Odysseus faces are very different from those we have seen earlier. The lecture looks in detail at Odysseus's arrival on Ithaka and the situation he finds there.

30 min
Reunion and Return

08: Reunion and Return

Books XVI and XVII include Odysseus's reunion with Telemachos, and his entry, disguised as a beggar, into the royal court of Ithaka. Throughout the poet stresses how hard Odysseus must strive to conceal his emotions during a series of encounters. Each encounter reiterates Odysseus's supreme self-control and moves him closer to the tremendous danger and difficulty that await him in his own palace.

29 min
Odysseus and Penelope

09: Odysseus and Penelope

In Book XIX we hear two lengthy conversations between the disguised Odysseus and Penelope that are separated by a scene in which Odysseus's old nurse recognizes him. We look at the significance of Odysseus's name, and then at the great enigma of whether Penelope recognizes the ragged beggar.

30 min
Recognitions and Revenge

10: Recognitions and Revenge

Books XX to XXII recount the "contest of the bow," Odysseus's revelation of his identity to the loyal slaves Eumaios and Philoitios, and the slaughter of the suitors. We continue to ask what Penelope knows, and what motives drive her, and then ask: Were Odysseus's slaughter of the suitors and the disloyal slave woman justified?

31 min
Reunion and Resolution

11: Reunion and Resolution

The final lecture on The Odyssey turns to the final reunion of Odysseus and Penelope in Book XXIII, and to resolve several themes in Book XXIV. The lecture analyzes the tremendous symbolic and narrative significance of Odysseus's and Penelope's marriage bed. Finally, we look at Book XXIV and discuss whether The Odyssey's conclusion is an effective one.

31 min
The Trojan War and the Archaeologists

12: The Trojan War and the Archaeologists

What can history and archaeology tell us about the Trojan War? We examine the famous 19th-century excavations of Heinrich Schliemann and touch on some of the controversies he left behind. Finally, we trace the discoveries made by more recent excavators.

30 min