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A Long and Difficult Journey or The Odyssey Crash Course Literature 201
Hi, I'm John Green, welcome toCrash Course Literature! You can tell I'm an English teacher becauseI'm wearing a sweater, but you tell I'm the kind of English teacher who wants to be yourfriend because I'm wearing awesome sneakers. This is actually season two of Crash CourseLiterature. If you want to watch season one, you can do so over here. It's season fourof Crash Course Humanities, it might even be like, season seven or eight if you count allthe science stuff. Whatever let's just get started! Theme Music We're going to start at the beginning of literature,or, at least, a beginning of literature. Sing
in me, Muse, and through me tell the storyof a man who lets all his shipmates die, lies to everyone he meets, cheats on his wife withassorted nymphs, and takes ten years to complete a voyage that, according to Google Maps, shouldhave taken two weeks. That man is, of course, one of the great heroes of the ancient world.Ladies and gentlemen, meet Odysseus, star of Homer's The Odyssey. Did I just say the odd at seaéThat's a good pun. Not in the original Greek though. Now everyone knows that you can't properlyenjoy a book until you know a lot about its author, so before we discuss The Odyssey,we're going to begin with a biographical sketch of Homer, the legendary blind poetof ancient Greece. What's thaté
Apparently we know nothing about him. Well, in factwe know that whoever wrote them didn't actually write them, because they were composed orally.And was Homer even blindé Well, there are some verses about blindness in the Homeric Hymnsand there's a blind bard who appears in The Odyssey, But if authors only wrote about characterswho were like themselves, then James Joyce's characters would have all had one eye, and I wouldbe an astonishingly handsome seventeenyearold. As for the subject of Homer's poems, archeologicalevidence tells us that the Trojan War occurred around the twelfth century BCE, although itprobably included far fewer gods and similes than in the epics based on it. Then again,maybe not; it's not like we have pictures.
Anyway, Homer composed The Iliad and The Odysseyin the eighth century BCE, so centuries after the events it describes. And then no one botheredto write them down for another two hundred years, which means that they probably changeda lot as they were passed down via the oral tradition, and even today there are arguments aboutwhich parts are original and which parts are additions. There were a lot of competing poems aboutthe Trojan War, but Homer's were by far the most famous, and they are now the mostfamous because they were also the only ones to survive the burning of the Library at Alexandria. So The Iliad and The Odyssey are epic poems,and we define an epic as â€œa long narrative
poem; on a serious subject; written in a grand orelevated style; centered on a largerthanlife hero.â€� By the way, that was an example of dactylichexameter, just like you see in epic poems. So the events of The Odyssey take place afterthose of The Iliad, so let's have a brief recap Thought Bubble. So Helen, the wife ofMenelaus, runs off with Paris, a Trojan prince; or maybe she's abducted, it's not clear.Anyway, Menelaus's brother Agamemnon gathers allies and goes to Troy to get her, back butthe war drags on for ten years, at which point everyone is really tired and bored and wantsto go home, until things suddenly get pretty tense because Agamemnon seizes a concubineof Achilles' and Achilles gets really angry
and says he won't fight anymore. And thingsgo really badly for the Greeks until Patroclus Achilles' best friend and maybe also lover,it's not clear goes into battle in his place and does a pretty awesome job untilhe's slain by Hector, the Trojans' great warrior. Which forces Achilles to reconcile himselfwith his own mortality and return to the field where he becomes the ultimatedeathdealing machine, slaying hordes of Trojans including Hector, whose body he drags behindhis chariot because that's how Achilles rolls, until Hector's father, Priam, comes andbegs for his son's corpse and Achilles relents and they have dinner together, and then the book endswith the war still going on and nothing really resolved.