Epic event brings Classics to life

CLAS Dean Fred Antczak and a student during the 2007 HOMERathon
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CLAS Dean Fred Antczak and a student during the 2007 HOMERathon
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Students at Grand Valley State University will be invoking the Muse, welcoming the sun with song and performing the funeral of Hector, all within a 24-hour period known as Homerathon. President Thomas J. Haas and University Libraries Dean Lee Van Orsdel will help kick off the event.

The fourth running of the Classics Department’s “epic event,” includes an ongoing live performance of Homer’s Iliad, by students, faculty and administrators. The event, on the Allendale Campus, begins Wednesday, October 2, at 1 p.m., with an invocation of the Muse in the Exhibition Space on the Atrium level of the Mary Idema Pew Library Learning and Information Commons.

“At a time when some are questioning the value of the liberal arts or even a college degree, it’s good to be reminded that people in other times and places have stopped and asked themselves what it means to be happy as a productive member of society,” said Charles Pazdernik, Classics Department chair. “The key dilemma in the Iliad arises when a profoundly gifted and incredibly successful individual--the Greek hero Achilles--takes a step back from his situation and asks himself and others, ‘Is this’ — their ideas about happiness and success — ‘all there is?’ Hundreds of students encounter this work, and pose this question for themselves.”

The relevance of Classics in the modern world will be explored during the guest lecture, at 6:30 p.m. in Cook-DeWitt Center, by Paul Woodruff, professor of the Humanities at the University of Texas in Austin, titled “The Ajax Dilemma: Who is the Best of the Greeks?” This talk builds on the topic of his highly lauded book, The Ajax Dilemma: Justice, Fairness, and Rewards, and uses the myth of the Greek warriors Ajax and Odysseus to show how issues of justice can, still today, set off societal conflict.

Other events include:
•    At sunrise, 7:43 a.m. on Thursday, October 3, there will be a reading near Zumberge Pond of the Hymn to Helios (translated by Professor Diane Rayor) to welcome the sun.
•    Finale: starting around noon on Thursday, the performance will come to a climactic end, with the reading of Hector’s funeral scene, performed primarily by the Department of Classics faculty, in the Mary Idema Pew Library.

In between events, performance of the epic will continue, with some passages prepared by class groups. Ancient Greek students will also do short recitations of the poem in Greek, in intervals throughout the day.

To keep up with all the events the Classics Department will be live tweeting throughout the two days with the hashtag #GVHomerathon. For a complete schedule, visit www.gvsu.edu/classics/homerathon4.