21 and older
The first lines of the Odyssey foretell the story of the man “of many ways” who, in his wanderings, comes to know “cities and minds.” A radically new hero is thus introduced, committed not to the glory—and to the short, beautiful life—of the Iliadic warrior, but to the transactions and institutions of an increasingly mortal, increasingly demystified world. The first lines of the epic also tell us that Odysseus, in his wanderings, suffers “pains in the spirit”; though he saves himself, he fails to save his companions. The hero suffers for his wanderings, even as he also brings suffering and death to others. Indeed, one possible translation of the name Odysseus might be “Trouble,” and in both a passive and an active sense: the hero is himself troubled and he brings trouble to others.
We will read and discuss the entirety of the Odyssey, with especial attention to its troublesome hero—as well as to Odysseus’ standing as trickster, as outlaw, as economic operator, as husband, and as city founder. Other central topics for discussion will include: the ethnography of the lands and cities that Odysseus visits, the hero as poet and as liar, the use and abuse of speech and of poetry, the relations between men and women, the fading of the gods and the origins of the secular city, the reciprocities of hosts and guests, and the creation of a “comic”—anti-tragic—world.
There *is* no physical Brooklyn Institute. We hold our classes all over (thus far) Brooklyn and Manhattan, in alternative spaces ranging from the back rooms of bars to bookstores to spaces in cultural centers, including the Center for Jewish History, the Goethe-Institut, and the Barnard Center for Research on Women. We can (and do) turn any space into a classroom. You will be notified of the exact location when you register for a class.