GVSU community keeps calm and Homers on
Classics department brings back Homer marathon
Grand Valley State University and the department of classics will host the fourth annual HOMERathon event, during which students read Homer’s epic “The Iliad” aloud in a 24-hour period from Oct. 2 to Oct. 3 on the Allendale Campus.
Gwen Gruber, visiting assistant professor of classics, is one of the main organizers involved in planning the event. She said it should be an “epic performance” of the oldest text of Western literature.
“It’s an attempt to read one of the epic poems in 24 hours, out loud, because they were intended to be performed orally,” Gruber said. “It’s an experience of trying to recreate what it would’ve been like to listen.”
HOMERathon is open to all students, not just those in the classics department. The event is held to “showcase what classics is about,” Gruber said, but it is also a celebration of the new library and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ 10th anniversary at GVSU.
Gruber called the event a “university-wide effort” and said that while it is driven by the classics department and its students, many others support it. Gruber said GVSU Provost Gayle Davis has helped financially support the event, President Thomas Haas is expected to make an appearance, and Lee Van Orsdel, dean of University Libraries, will welcome attendees at 1 p.m. in the library to kick off the marathon.
The readings will continue until 6:30 p.m., when the event will move to the Cook-DeWitt Center Auditorium for the keynote address by Paul Woodruff, a philosophy professor at the University of Texas at Austin. Woodruff’s speech will focus on Ajax, a character in “The Iliad.”
“The Iliad” is almost 3,000 years old, but Gruber said it is important because Homer’s epics helped shape ancient Greek and Roman society, which have had lasting impacts on modern society.
“It is the lens through which we can see the relevance of the epics today by looking at Ajax’s experiences,” she said. “We can think about the concepts of justice and fairness in our society today.”
Brandon Hodell, a sophomore and classics major at GVSU, is the treasurer for the GVSU Classics Society. Although he has not attended in previous years, Hodell said he plans to go this year because he wants the experience of hearing “The Iliad” performed orally.
“This is how the ancient Greeks would have experienced the Iliad, so it’s kind of cool to step into their shoes even for just a little bit,” he said.
In addition to the readings, pizza and a scavenger hunt will be offered in the Cook-DeWitt Center to help keep students awake. On Thursday, the Homer marathon will feature the Hymn to Helios (the sun) at 7:42 a.m. on the lawn between the Kirkhof Center and Zumberge Hall. The event will end back at the new library with the funeral of Hector, which classics department faculty will perform.
Kendall Farkas, president of the GVSU Classics Society, said the group will be participating at the marathon throughout the night by helping professors read some of the book and performing the catalog of ships in book two.
Farkas said Homer can be fun and relatable to everyone because it is meant to be performed orally.
“To fully appreciate Homer, you’d have to experience it being performed,” she said. “Homer is important because of what he did for the written story. By finally writing down these oral traditions, he allowed them to be enjoyed even to this day. We are recreating an oral tradition that started 3,000 years ago.”
Classics students who are interested in reading parts of the epic can go to the classics department office in Lake Huron Hall to sign-up.
Gruber’s students are also using Twitter to tell the story through the characters in the epic. Gruber said she will tweet live updates from the event’s official Twitter account, @HomerathonGVSU, with the hashtag #GVHomerathon.
For more information about the Homer marathon event, visit www.gvsu.edu/classics/homerathon-iv-71.htm.