During WesFest, students of classical studies will be seen scattered around campus reading the entirety of Homer’s “The Odyssey” aloud. On Thursday, April 7, the University will host its first Homerathon, sponsored by the Classics Department. According to Majors Committee member and classics major Andrea Ruiz-Lopez ’13, the purpose of the Homerathon is to bring more attention to the Classics Department.
“I think a lot of people don’t know we’re here,” Ruiz-Lopez said. “We don’t even have our name on the building we have. We get ignored a lot. But we do a lot of really fun things. And you don’t have to be a major to come to our movie nights or our pizza parties and things, and I think we just get overlooked a lot.”
The Classics Department has recently been attempting to gain more exposure within the University community. Dominic Sieminski ’15 discussed a failed attempt at program housing but hopes that this event will gain more recognition to the major.
“We tried to have a program house made for the Classics department when we found out that one of them was going to be closed,” Sieminski said. “But the only thing that ResLife offered us was living right next to Lighthouse in the same building, and we were like, ‘Okay, nobody’s going to want to live there, and Classics has nothing to do with what Lighthouse does.’”
In 15-minute intervals, students will read a section of the epic poem and then pass the translation on to the next student. The event will occur outside at different locations around campus, according to Assistent Professor of Classical Studies Lauren Caldwell.
“Anybody can read [at the event],” Ruiz-Lopez said.
The idea for the event was borrowed from a similar event at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“We’ll kick off at 9:00 a.m. outside Pi Café, and will move every couple of hours or so, to North College, Usdan, Olin, Andrus Field, and back to Downey House at 6:00 p.m.,” Caldwell wrote.
The reading of the 12,000 lines is also meant to gain interest from prospective students at WesFest. Caldwell wrote that each classics major can take it to hir level of study or interest, even reading the text in Greek. Students will wear togas and ivy wreaths.
“An outdoor reading marathon invites students, faculty, staff and WesFest prospective students to pause for a moment during their daily routine—on the way to class or to lunch—and enjoy listening to a great work of literature,” Caldwell wrote. “Most of our volunteers will read from Robert Fagles’ translation, in English. Some of our advanced Greek students, who are studying the Odyssey this semester, will read the original ancient Greek.”
The event will conclude at Downey House with a celebration.
“We’re ending with a big party at six o’clock, and we’re trying to get a pig that’s going to be roasted,” Ruiz-Lopez said. “We’re doing it big, ancient-Greek festival style.”
“The Odyssey” was originally an oral story and was not written down. Sieminski hopes this event will imitate how “The Odyssey” was first presented to its audience.
“[It is] inspired by how it was originally performed because it was really an oral poem that was passed down for generations,” Sieminski said. “And it wasn’t really recorded until somebody came up with the alphabet…. So we’re trying to mimic that.”
For any students interested in signing up for a 15-minute reading slot, they are encouraged to contact Cladwell or Assistant Professor of Classical Studies Kate Birney.