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Welcome to Lit. Hum.!  

        ...and introduction to the Iliad:
        Books I-XIIDiagram: Structure of Bk. IBooks XIII-XVIIIBook XVIBooks XIX-XXIVFinal wrap-up

 
 

Literature Humanities, a flagship course of the Core Curriculum, is one of the experiences you share with all Columbia College students (and many Engineering students) for the last 64 years. (Contemporary Civilization goes back even further than that--to 1919.)

The following text is from the Core Curriculum page at Columbia:
"Though celebrated for their content, [the Core] courses are equally important for their small class format. Taught in seminars limited to approximately twenty-two students, these courses ensure that education at Columbia begins with an emphasis on active intellectual engagement. In the Core Curriculum the pursuit of better questions is every bit as important as the pursuit of better answers."

In these pages, as well as in class, we will work on coming up with some really good questions.

 

Buy this book to get started!

Homer's Iliad   (looking for a different book?)

"mÍnin aeide thea PÍlÍÔadeŰ AchilÍos..."
Homer's epic of a few decisive weeks in the tenth year of the Trojan War contains much more than meets the eye. Keep an eye out for the ways in which Homer invokes the "big picture"--the entire history of the Fall of Troy--within the scope of his selected portion. And don't forget to ask yourself the big questions as you read: What is the poem about? Why does it tell the parts of the story that it tells, and why does it tell them the way it does? How do the various elements of the poem (action, dialogue, characters, themes, language, structural devices, images, key words, etc...) collaborate in the creation of its overall effect, and how would you describe that effect?

Some key terms in the Iliad--words that appear with especial frequency in the poem and that would have had particular resonance for Homer's Greek audience--are the following:

menis

wrath, divine anger; the first word of the poem (menin is the accusative form)

kleos honor, in the sense of "noble reputation"--what lives on after you
moira fate
eris discord
nostos return (to one's origins; cf. nostalgia)

If you're interested in checking the frequency of these words in the Iliad, you can find a transliterated text of the original Greek at the Perseus Digital Library. Click on any word in the text to find out what it means, how frequently it is used in the Iliad, and how frequently it is used by other ancient Greek authors (for comparison). The interface also lets you switch between the transliterated Greek text and an English translation, so you can keep track of where you are in the poem.

In class, we will pay particular attention to books 1, 3, 6 and 9.

And don't forget to check out What is "Close Reading"? for more tips on how to read for Lit. Hum.!

 

Acknowledgments:
Much of the material on these pages has been informed by lectures given at Columbia University by Professors Cathy Popkin, Kathy Eden, and Edward Tayler. In addition, some of the study questions are adapted from material originated by Professor Rachel Adams (also at Columbia). The Web hosting and message board programming are by Chris Snyder. The background image you see on this page is also by Mr. Snyder, and was inspired by a landscape of Yayannis Apostolos.

 
Creative Commons License  All the original content on these pages is licensed under a Creative Commons License.  Under this license, you may copy, alter, and redistribute any of the original content on this site to your heart's content, provided that you (a) credit me and/or link back to this page; and (b) allow others to make similarly free use of any work you create that is based on material from these pages. In other words, share the love. You might also like to drop me a line and let me know if you're using my stuff -- it's the nice thing to do!
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