I have asked you to read the first 12 chapters of Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor and the first half (12 chapters also!) of Robert Fagle's translation of Homer's Odyssey. If anyone is interested in taking a second (or first) look at the Introduction and Chapters 1-12 of HTRLLP AND reading along with me the first 12 books of The Odyssey, I thought I would just use the Alfred Drake study guide questions on the epic as a way to enter into a "book club" situation with willing participants. The link to those questions follows: http://www.ajdrake.com/teachers/teaching/questions/homer_drake_03.htm
and the first ten questions concern the epic as a whole, but the ones that follow cover some aspects of each of the epic's "books" or chapters.
So, here is one of the questions Drake proposes in his guide:
What first impression does this book give us of the gods? How much of a role do they play in human affairs? What seems to motivate their actions?
I have a few thoughts in response to Drake's question as I think about what Foster does in his Introduction and as I think of Homer's first book title, "Athena Inspires the Prince." Foster begins with a study of the "satanic temptation" (xxiv) of Mr. Lindner, the "meekly apologetic little man [. . . ] dispatched from the neighborhood association, check in hand, to buy out the [Younger] family's claim" (xxiii) on a house in a white neighborhood that Mamma Younger would like to buy with the downpayment that they have received after her husband's death. Yes, I highlighted those words that have something to do with a supernatural or "beyond the natural" influence on human behavior. When author's include such supernatural references, they reflect the power that we sometimes describe as the gods or God or fate or the little voice inside us, telling us what we might decide to do. No matter how we look at it, we humans know that something beyond our understanding seems to influence the paths we take. Authors often represent these powers symbolically, and certainly Homer and his fellow Greeks focus often on the influence of the various gods that you studied further with Miss Arney.
So, what about these gods--Athena, Zeus, Poseidon, and later in the epic, others who influence Odysseus and his son and wife and many other characters? How are they and their actions symbolic? What are your thoughts about why Athena begins to act again on Odysseus' behalf, almost 20 years after the start of the Trojan War that embroiled the entire Achaean world? Why does Zeus agree to help at this point? Where is Poseidon now as they make their decision? And finally, why does Homer begin his epic, after the invocation (prayer) to the Muse, with this conversation between the gods?
Any responses to these questions would be a welcome way to comment on this blog post. Tell your fellow classmates about this blog post, which they may be interested in reading and/or commenting on. I will have another in a few days that will focus on Telemachus's reactions to Athena's appearance in Ithaca, the material covered in Books 2-4 of the epic AND on Foster's Chapter 1: Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It's Not)".