Sunday, March 12, 2017

Why the Odyssey?

As with my vintage snapshots and classic films I love old stuff. This series of work just happens to be a whole lot older! I love being connected to the past. There is something about it that delights and inspires me infinitely. Finding bits and pieces of another time which I get to reassemble with bits and pieces of my own time to recreate a reality of my own imagination, my own making. My reality, my fantasy. It is an interaction, a co-creation.
Odysseus and The Sirens, Attic Red Figure, ca 500 - 480 B.C
Ancient writings open a door into my imagination. Ancient writing has a cadence that is different than today’s way of expressing oneself. It is simple and rich. The details are succinct and non-superfluous. Ancient stories are the foundation of all our other stories. It is part of our cultural, psychological heritage.

The Iliad and The Odyssey are one of the major cultural building blocks of western society. The character and incidents in it have been borrowed from and built upon ever since. It is one of the original Hero stories. Odysseus is the classic trickster hero. Its elements are reflected in almost every story you will read or watch.
Polyphemus & Odysseus' Escape on the Ram, Athenian Red Figure
ca 5th B.C.
About The Odyssey

Aristotle, in his work “Poetics“ reduces the Epic poem to 3 sentences: 
“...The story of The Odyssey can be stated briefly. A certain man is absent from home for many years; he is jealously watched by Poseidon, and left desolate. Meanwhile his home is in a wretched plight—suitors are wasting his substance and plotting against his son. At length, tempest-tossed, he himself arrives; he makes certain persons acquainted with him; he attacks the suitors with his own hand, and is himself preserved while he destroys them. This is the essence of the plot; the rest is episode.”

This is the bare bones of The Odyssey. But I’d have to say that the “episode” of it is the part that delights. He confronts monsters and gods, foreign people with strange abilities, drama, romance, heartbreak, daring feats, deceptions, politics, comedy, this story has got a bit of everything.

The Odyssey was written down almost 3000 years ago. It is a long story and it may seem sort of daunting to imagine reading it if you haven’t attempted. It isn’t exactly an easy read. You have to put yourself into a certain mindset, enjoy the poetry and appreciate the way our sensibilities have changed over the millennia. But the more you read ancient literature the easier it gets. It is the sequel to The Iliad, which is an equally long and influential poem about the Trojan War. It is also a beautiful book, but the Odyssey is actually easier to get. So if you are thinking about reading Homer, you may want to start with The Odyssey.

I found a wonderful primer about Greek mythology in general and about The Odyssey in particular on a terrific website called The Art of Manliness. 
Achilles and Patroclus, Attic Red Figure, ca 500 B.C

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