Upcoming Iliad Marathon Reading at Northwestern

From the Daily Northwestern:

Late at night on the Lakefill, Northwestern students will experience a different kind of Greek life as they conduct a marathon reading of “The Iliad” from May 23 to 24.

Participants will read Homer’s famous epic about the end of the Trojan War beginning at 10 p.m. on May 23 and continuing until dawn the next day.

The Department of Classics, which is hosting the event, received funding in the fall from the Alumnae of Northwestern University, a volunteer organization, to bring to NU a production of “Socrates Now,” an interpretation of Plato’s “Apology of Socrates,” featuring Emmy-winning actor Yannis Simonides.

Francesca Tataranni, a professor of classics, said the idea for “The Iliad” reading was inspired by a group called The Readers of Homer, which performs marathon readings of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” all over the world.

Weinberg senior Maria Kovalchuk, co-president of the NU chapter of Eta Sigma Phi, a classics honor society, said those organizing the event wanted to mimic the epic poem’s original presentation.

“Greek epic poetry was sung by a bard often over the course of a few nights, and people would come to these recitals to be entertained,” Kovalchuk said. “Here at Northwestern, we’re trying to recreate this ancient Greek experience. I think it’s going to be a humanizing and educational event for Northwestern.”

Weinberg senior Brian Earl, also a co-president of Eta Sigma Phi, said he and other members worked on editing “The Iliad” down to fit in the allotted time.

“The whole thing takes about 24 hours to read if you do it uncut, so we’re going to do about a third of it,” Earl said.

Earl said he hasn’t studied the Iliad, but is familiar with the story as a criticism of war.

“It’s just about actually a very short period in the Trojan War — it takes place over a couple of weeks in the whole ten-year war,” he said. “’The Iliad’ has been called the greatest peace story of all time because it shows war how it really is — very bloody, grim, somber, heart-wrenching, terrible.”

Tataranni said as of now, she has received more than 60 requests to read passages from the text.  Readings will be 50 to 100 lines long, and some readers will be responsible for multiple readings, Earl said. Students can sign up to read by sending an email expressing interest to Tataranni by April 30.

“We have people from the School of Communication, people from Weinberg, people from Medill,” Tataranni said. “The 60 people who contacted me are really from everywhere on campus.”

The group also organized an opening event which will be held in Harris Hall from 6-7:30 p.m. and will be dedicated to translations of “The Iliad,” Tataranni said. During this event, faculty members and students will read parts of the text in multiple languages, including Italian, German and Russian.

However, Tataranni said she is still deciding whether readers can use any language in the main Lakefill reading, because they will not be able to project translations to help people follow along.

Earl said he thought a variety of languages would enhance the experience.

“Because the Iliad is such a universal poem, it’s been translated I think into just about every language,” he said. “It allows people to read in the language that is most comfortable to them or that they feel most at home speaking. We want this experience to be both deeply personal and bringing the community together … and our community is not one language-speaking.”

Katie Hartsock, a fifth-year graduate student in comparative literary studies and assistant director of the reading, said community members don’t have to have knowledge of “The Iliad” to participate.

“Whatever experience you have with ‘The Iliad,’ please come, whether you’ve just heard of it and never read it or if you’ve spent a lot of time reading it,” she said. “Bring blankets and hang out for the night and listen to this poem unfold.”

Hartsock said the outdoor, nighttime locale would add atmosphere to the reading. She added that she hopes the reading will conclude just as the dawn breaks.

“Just as Achilles is wandering the beach at dawn, we’ll be reading those lines,” she said. “I think it’s going to be so awesome when Achilles is walking up and down the beach, and the sun is rising over Lake Michigan.”

via: Classics department to host ‘Iliad’ marathon (The Daily Northwestern)

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Diagnostical Skepticism

Hot on the heels of the Odysseus in America post comes this item from Anesthesiology News:

Sing, O Muse, of the rage of Achilles, of Peleus’ son, murderous, man-killer, fated to die of massive hemorrhage secondary to an acute laceration of the calcaneal tendon, indicating the likely presence of an inherited coagulopathy such as hemophilia or von Willebrand disease. (Note: The patient’s parentage—half mortal, half immortal—could have predisposed him to yet-undescribed clotting disorders.)

Classicists who devote their lives to the analysis of ancient texts such as Homer’s Iliad tend to be skeptical of physician historians who examine these literary works for insight into ancient medical practices—and who, in the process, come up with post hoc diagnoses such as the mockery above. And they’re evidently right to be wary.

An anesthesiologist and a pair of classicists have identified numerous errors in the methods and conclusions drawn by several medical researchers about medicine during the time of The Iliad. The researchers, from Wake Forest University, in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Temple University, in Philadelphia, presented their findings at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (abstract 1320).

Lead author and anesthesiologist Raymond C. Roy, MD, PhD, said that five of the six articles published from 2000 to 2010 discussing medical care in The Iliad fell into common traps. Mistakes included incorrect assumptions that Homer was an eyewitness reporter of actual events and real injuries, that accurate comparisons could be made to modern-day medical care based on limited descriptions, that there was a one-to-one relationship between ancient Greek and modern English medical terms, that medical care was organized then as it is now, and that physicians provided care to wounded heroes during the Trojan War.

Dr. Roy said his interest in the subject was stimulated by his daughter and her husband, both classicists at Temple University in Philadelphia. “We have engaged in some very interesting discussions over the coffee and drinks regarding ancient Greek medicine and current perceptions of it,” he said. “It has been fun to have this project with my children and to be ‘forced’ to read The Iliad … and a monograph by Salazar. Our thesis was that physicians who ‘dabble’ in history, like myself, frequently fall into traps that lead classicists to be critical of our conclusions.”

The epic poem about gods, heroes and heroic wounding and death near the end of the war stems from an oral tradition. Estimates of when it was composed (1184-675 B.C.) and first recorded (800-675 B.C.) range widely, and there are multiple versions of the work.

All accounts of Homer’s life place him centuries after the Trojan War. However, physician researchers have written: “We are amazed by Homer’s meticulous account of the wounds inflicted to combatants” and “it may therefore be inferred that Homer was a witness of the war and that he even participated in it: he may have been one of the people appointed to nurse wounds of the injured warriors.”

Other comments revealed a lack of knowledge about the practice of medicine in the period. Those included a reference to the likelihood that anesthetic procedure was already present in ancient Greece as well as the statement: “Numerous findings indicate that Greek physicians were present on the battlefield.”

Dr. Roy and his team point out that there were no field hospitals, and surgical instruments were rarely found at archeological digs of Bronze Age battles. With regard to anesthetics, salves were applied after, not during, an arrowhead extraction. Disease was left untreated because it was believed to be inflicted by the gods, and healing temples appeared after Homer. Healers took orders from heroes and could only treat non-heroes—only heroes had the status to treat other heroes. In fact, the primary function of the healers was to fight.

Medical terms that appear in modern translations present added red herrings, Dr. Roy said, “Classics like The Iliad are constantly evolving as each translator chooses more modern words, terms and concepts based on knowledge acquired since the previous translations, and this evolution has the effect of attributing more understanding by the ancients than they actually had.” For example, sinews, tendons, nerves, arteries and veins have all been used in place of the ancient term neuron, he said.

The authors conclude that for reasons ranging from national pride to the projecting of modern beliefs and knowledge onto the past, physicians who otherwise are rigorous in their scientific and medical endeavors tend to be naively positive in their analysis of the quality and efficacy of ancient treatments as encountered in classics. Although medical training can aid in the analysis of ancient healing practices, Dr. Roy warned, “Physicians writing historical articles about medicine in ancient times need to collaborate with classicists, archeologists and full-time historians to avoid drawing conclusions that are at odds with facts.”

That final paragraph should become some sort of mantra … you can substitute the non-classics profession of your choice for “Physician” as you desire …

Also Seen: Donum natalicium digitaliter confectum Gregorio Nagy septuagenario a discipulis collegis familiaribus oblatum

A different approach (i.e. online) to a Festschrift over at the Center for Hellenic Studies:

… a pile of Homer-related articles, as one might suspect

Poets and Profs ~ Homer as Slam Poetry

Owen Cramer mentioned this article in UChicago Magazine yesterday on the Classics list … here’s the incipit:

For Mark Eleveld, MLA’10, and Ron Maruszak, MLA’10, the realization was inescapable: Homer, the blind bard, ancient Greece’s greatest poet, whose epics on the Trojan War and its aftermath founded the Western canon and influenced 3,000 years of literature, was, basically, a slam poet. What else to call a man—a showman and writer—who made his living turning poetry into entertainment, who traveled from town to town performing memorized verses before crowds of listeners? “I imagine that if Homer was alive today, and he had to go hang with a crew, he’s either going to the playwrights or to the performance poets,” says Eleveld. “In my head, it’s the performance poets. They take a hit in academic circles, but they’re closer to Homer than people realize.”

That’s the argument running through a documentary by Eleveld and Maruszak, Poets and Profs: Looking at the “Iliad,” in which ivory tower luminaries like Robert Pinsky and Nicholas Rudall, Herman Sinaiko, AB’47, PhD’61 (who died in October 2011), and James Redfield, U-High’50, AB’54, PhD’61, share the screen with leading lights from the slam poetry world: Taylor Mali, Bob Holman, Regie Gibson, Marc Smith. West Point English professor Elizabeth Samet provides some of the film’s most stirring moments, discussing the Iliad’s lessons—literary, military, and moral—for future soldiers. […]

A trailer for the doc came out last year:

… and the comments to the UChicago piece link to a marathon reading primarly by the younger set in Louisville:

You’ve heard Keep Louisville Weird, how about Keeping Louisville Classical?

A local group of students are trying to keep the past alive and well.

At the Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft on West Main Street– a trip back in time.

Dr. John Hale from the University of Louisville is reading book two of the Iliad by Homer and it is all complete with musical accompaniment.

He’s one of 100 featured readers who will finish the epic 24 book poem about the Trojan War by Saturday.

The poem is complex, but the point is simple, Keep Louisville Classical; all in thanks to students from the Louisville Classical Academy.

Students are reciting part of it in English and in Greek.

These students take both Latin and Greek – it’s part of the curriculum here at the school near U.S. 42 and Prospect, Ky. It opened just a few years ago.

The Iliad is the earliest surviving written work from ancient Greece.

It’s this book that changed the course of life for the school’s founder Marcia Cassidy.

The former attorney read it in her mid forties and thought what if for a classical school.

Seventy-five children grades three through 12 are now enrolled at Louisville Classical Academy. They learn the basics and the classics and they love it.

They say all roads lead back to the Iliad — from literature, to language to culture.

They say it’s hip to be classical, and it’s hip to read Homer.

… it includes a video news report which is quite good …