Last spring, Saint Mary’s brought the tale of Odysseus to life as more than 50 students, faculty, and staff read The Odyssey in nearly 14 hours over three days. In typical Seminar fashion, [email protected] was
conceived in conversation with Colin Redemer, clarified through collaboration with Krista Varela, and carried off with the collective support of Seminar Director José Feito, and the Collegiate Seminar Governing Board. From the beginning we were unsure of just when, where, and how, but we knew why we should do it.
First, it would be awesome, literally epic, a grandiose feat in the SMC tradition of the phone booth photo and an opportunity for members of the SMC community to contribute to the Collegiate Seminar Informal Curriculum. It would also prompt interesting questions, from “Why should we read The Odyssey aloud?” to “Why read it at all?”
The Odyssey comes from an oral tradition, so it’s a story that’s meant to be heard. Still, why read Homer at all?
The 18th-century philosopher David Hume noted that the “same Homer, who pleased at Athens and Rome two thousand years ago, is still admired at Paris and at London. All the changes of climate, government, religion, and language, have not been able to obscure his glory.” Hume’s point is that great art stands the test of time; it transcends time and place and speaks to people, not just as individuals, but persons per se.
The Odyssey resonates because it’s a story about people, about a guy on a long, strange trip who misses his home and his family, who uses his wits and charm to overcome obstacles and find his way. He is at turns frustrated, elated, lucky, unlucky, wise, foolish, and everything in between. We might think we’re different, that the triumphs and tragedies of our modern lives are far removed from the shores of rocky Ithaca. Homer reminds us we’re pretty typical, and certainly no more or less human than those who came before.
—Professor Joseph Zeccardi
Zeccardi is the associate director of the Center for Writing Across the Curriculum and adjunct assistant professor for Collegiate Seminar. He's coordinating this year's reading which happens April 27.