20 credit module: Spring semester (January - March 2023)
Tuesdays at 14:00-16:00
Venue: Room 243, Senate House
Prof Katherine Harloe, Institute of Classical Studies

Classical scholars today believe that the Iliad and Odyssey were the product of a long tradition of oral poetry.  But for much of the poems’ reception-history, they were thought to be the work of one genius, whose identity and character was imagined and re-imagined in various ways.  This module examines a series of episodes in the transmission and reception of the Homeric poems, in different media and contexts, from antiquity to the twenty-first century.  The focus will be on the different ways in which the corpus of Homeric poems and their author have been constructed, and the often porous boundary between classical scholarship and literary and imaginative responses.

The first part of the course will explore the Homeric question in antiquity, setting the Iliad and Odyssey within the context of ancient debates about the authorship of other works such as the Homeric Hymns, rhapsodic performance, literary-critical and poetic representations of the poet. The course will then discuss selected episodes in the modern literary and cultural reception of Homer, focusing on the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Topics covered may include Pope’s Iliad, the role of Homer in the ‘Quarrel of Ancients and Moderns’, debates over Homer’s (il)literacy and attempts to relate Odysseus’ wanderings to Mediterranean topography, the role of ideas about Homer in tourism to Italy and Greece and the political impact of philellenism (for example in Germany, Scotland, and during the French Revolution), Homer in twentieth- and twenty-first century poetry (Walcott, Longley, Oswald), creative non-fiction (Nicolson) and fiction (Miller,  Atwood). The specific content of the seminars will be decided in line with students’ interests and experience. Use may be made of ICS special collections, which are particularly rich in the history of Homeric scholarship.

Assessment: 4000 words paper on a topic agreed with the module teacher