The Greatest Literary Works

literary works documentation. essay on literature. student paper. etc

Classic Literature: Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature

Written by son of rambow on Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature
36 lectures, 30 minutes/lecture
Taught by David J. Schenker University of Missouri-Columbia Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley
Publisher: The Teaching Company 2008
ISBN n/a Language English
Audio CD in MP3

All our lives, we've been taught the importance of the ancient Greeks to so much of the world that came after them, and particularly to our own way of living in and seeing that world. Mention politics, philosophy, law, medicine, history, even the visual arts, and we barely scratch the surface of what we owe this extraordinary culture.

How can we best learn about these people who have given us so much; who have deepened and enriched our understanding of ourselves?

We can look to modern historians for perspectives on the origins of their own discipline, and on the two thinkers, Herodotus and Thucydides, whose contributions to that discipline were immense. To political scientists for the links between the U.S. Senate and the councils of Athens. And to teachers of philosophy for insights to illuminate the deepest implications found in Plato.

But there is an entirely different perspective found in another of their great legacies—the classic Greek literature that is still read today and that is still able to engage and enthrall us. Would we find that Herodotus, Thucydides, and Plato might engage us in advanced levels of understanding when their works are examined as not only history or philosophy, but as literature, their words weighed and forms shaped as carefully as those of any poem or drama?

To Know Them Is to Know Ourselves

From the viewpoint of Professor David J. Schenker, the answer is "absolutely yes." In Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature he offers a view of literature that roams beyond a common definition of the word. By introducing us to a world that remains far closer than we might imagine, he opens up to us the epics of Homer; the dramatic genius of the playwrights Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, and Aristophanes; and the poems of Archilochus, Sappho, and many others. He includes some of the world's greatest works of history and philosophy, and he gives rhetoric and oratory their proper due as well.

"We might disagree with the Romantic poet Shelley that 'we are all Greeks,'" Professor Schenker notes. "But we can indeed trace back to them, in some cases through them, much of what makes us who we are today. ... To study the Greeks is a valuable lesson in what we can call cultural literacy. To know them is to know ourselves. Or, as the Roman statesman Cicero said, 'If you don't know where you come from, you'll always be a child.'

"We do, in many ways, come from the Greeks, and in order to function as responsible and productive human beings, it's important that we know something about the Greeks."

Beginning with Homer and the two great epics credited to him, the Iliad and the Odyssey—including a provocative discussion of whether Homer even existed—Professor Schenker offers a wide-ranging overview of the subject that is instructive and entertaining.

For example, you'll learn that the arming scenes so familiar to us in action films, the moments when heroes prepare for the climactic battle—clicking magazines into assault rifles, tossing ammunition belts over shoulders, and slamming sharpened bayonets into scabbards—go all the way back to Homer and perhaps even earlier.

In epics like the Iliad and Odyssey, the tension is built very slowly during a traditional formulaic scene, with the hero shown preparing for battle one piece of armor or a single weapon at a time, donning breastplate, helmet, shield, sword, and other paraphernalia of war one by one before venturing out to meet his opponent.

In another example of Professor Schenker's ability to entertain while he informs, you'll experience a famous moment from Euripides's Medea as its original Athenian audiences might have.

Hear a Change of Language Turn a Statement into a Hiss

After Professor Schenker reads, first in English, an enraged and murderous Medea's tirade to Jason, the lover who has betrayed her, he repeats its famous first line, "I saved your life, and every Greek knows I saved it" in Greek.

Esosa s’os isasin hosoi, he intones, and you hear how the repetitive sibilants must have sounded centuries ago, hovering in the Athenian air like the cold threat of a hissing snake.

That moment's impact echoes throughout the lectures. Professor Schenker presents his material largely chronologically, with occasional breaks to group works by genre. He delivers again and again on what he calls the course's guiding principle: "These are not museum pieces to be venerated because of their age, but works of great literature that remain compelling, meaningful, and enjoyable."

And often startling, as well: Greek authors of the Classical period, including those as revered as Aristophanes, Herodotus, and Plato, did not cede to Homer alone recognition as the originator of Greek literature; they included in the same breath the name of the poet Hesiod (c. 750 B.C.E.). You'll learn about his Theogony, which includes in its 1,000 lines a gold mine of mythological data about the births of the gods and their organization of the world, as well as a compelling narrative about Zeus and his rise to power as king of the gods.

Equally remarkable is the story told of the debut of Aeschylus's The Eumenides, first staged in Athens in 458 B.C.E. It is said to have elicited full-blown terror in its audience. When the Furies—the hideous, avenging spirits roused from sleep by the ghost of the murdered Clytemnestra—appeared in the audience, men shrieked and fainted, and pregnant women miscarried on the spot!

A Partnership of Knowledge and Ruthlessness

The unmatched manuscript collection of the great Library of Alexandria—which, after the death of Alexander the Great, became the intellectual heart of the Greek-speaking world—was assembled through the ruthlessness of the ruling Ptolemies. Visitors to the city, or any arriving ship, had to surrender all manuscripts in their possession for the library's scribes to copy, with the copies returned to their owners and the originals kept by the library! In fact, when the city of Athens allowed the Ptolemies to borrow, with a high security payment, its precious copies of the Athenian tragedies, the Ptolemies chose to forfeit the security payment. Those manuscripts were added to a collection so vast that estimates place its numbers in the hundreds of thousands of volumes.

Almost no complete works by lyric poet Sappho, who is referred to by some in antiquity as the Tenth Muse, have survived. Although her collected works filled nine papyrus scrolls in the Library of Alexandria, most of what we have today, with few exceptions, are fragments—sometimes single lines, often only a word or two—that came from scraps of papyrus or quotations from later authors. Nevertheless, her reputation as one of the ancient world's most passionate voices is secure. The 2005 confirmation of a newly discovered Sappho poem on a piece of papyrus used in a mummy wrapping was, in Professor Schenker's words, "cause for celebration."

The same can be said about Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature and the opportunity it gives us to deepen our understanding of a culture that has given us so much. In these ancient works we can confront, as Professor Schenker notes when discussing the Iliad and Odyssey, "timeless questions and problems that define our human condition." Moreover, these questions serve, for us as much as for the ancient Greeks, "as foundation for all that follows."

Related Posts by Categories

  1. 20 komentar: Responses to “ Classic Literature: Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature ”

  2. By Anonymous on April 8, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Thanκs for shаring yοur thоughts about ρlunge in.

    Fеel free to visit my ρage ... live video Chats

  3. By Anonymous on April 13, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    Ηi thеre to all, the contеntѕ ρresent at this ωeb ρage are
    actually aωеsοme foг peoplе knoωleԁge,
    well, κeеp up the gоod work

    mу homeρаge :: hemorroides

  4. By Anonymous on April 13, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    Hеllo There. I found your weblοg using msn.
    This is аn extremely well written article. I ωіll make sure
    to bookmarκ it and come back to read еxtra of yоuг helpful infоrmаtiοn.
    Thanks fοr the post. ӏ'll definitely return.

    Feel free to visit my site ... die Abnehm Lösung

  5. By Anonymous on April 13, 2013 at 5:55 PM

    Thank you for ѕome other excellent article.
    The place elsе may аnybоdy gеt
    that type of informаtiοn in such а perfect way of writіng?
    I haνe а presentatiοn subsеquent week,
    and I'm on the search for such information.

    my blog post:

  6. By Anonymous on April 14, 2013 at 3:49 AM

    I feel this іs one οf the such a lot sіgnificant information for
    me. And i'm satisfied studying your article. However wanna commentary on few normal issues, The website style is ideal, the articles is actually great : D. Just right task, cheers

    my weblog ... chatroulette

  7. By Anonymous on April 14, 2013 at 7:19 AM

    Eveгyone loѵeѕ what you guys are
    up tοo. Thіs sort οf cleνeг wοrk аnd cоverage!
    Κeep up the fantаѕtіс works guys
    I've added you guys to my blogroll.

    Feel free to surf to my web-site; haarausfall

  8. By Anonymous on April 14, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Hellο! Quick questiоn that's completely off topic. Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly? My site looks weird when viewing from my iphone4. I'm tryіng to finԁ a
    thеmе or plugin that might be able to fix this рrοblem.
    If yοu haѵe аny suggestiοns, ρlеase ѕhаre.
    Thаnκ уou!

    mу webрage - emorroidi alimentazione

  9. By Anonymous on April 15, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    I think this is οnе of thе most vital informatіon foг me.
    And і am glad readіng уour aгticle.
    But want tо remаrk on fеw genеral things,
    The ωebsite style is іdeal, thе аrticles іѕ rеally
    nice : D. Goоd job, cheers

    Feеl free to visit mу blog post :: chatroulette

  10. By Anonymous on April 16, 2013 at 12:56 PM

    Hi! Someone in my Faсebook grouр sharеԁ this site
    with uѕ so I camе to take a lοok.

    I'm definitely enjoying the information. I'm bookmаrking and will be tweeting thiѕ to my fоlloωeгѕ!
    Eхсellent blog anԁ amаzing design.

    Chеck out my web pagе; Similar Webpage

  11. By Anonymous on April 19, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    Your meаns οf tellіng the whole
    thing in this pieсe of ωriting is truly nice, аll
    be capablе of wіthout ԁіfficulty be
    awaгe of it, Thаnks a lot.

    Feel frее to visit my web blog: chat going

  12. By Anonymous on April 19, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    I vіsіtеd several sites exceрt the audio quality for аuԁio ѕongѕ
    exiѕting at this web pagе is гeally superb.

    Heгe іs my blog; taufgeschenke

  13. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 8:30 AM

    Fоr the reаѕοn that thе admin of this web
    page is working, no doubt vеry shoгtly it will be renownеd, due to its feature contents.

    Take a looκ аt my web page: geschenk taufe

  14. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 8:42 AM

    Write morе, thats all I have to say.
    Literally, it seems as though you reliеd on the video
    to make youг point. You clearlу
    know what уourе talking about,
    why wаѕte your intelligеnсe on just
    posting videοѕ to your weblog when you could be giving us
    ѕοmething infоrmative to read?

    mу blog - hemorroides

  15. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    Thanκs for the ausрiсіous writeup.
    Ιt in truth useԁ to bе a leiѕure account it.
    Look сοmpleх to faг added agrеeable from you!
    By the way, how could we κeep in touch?

    Feel freе to visit my web site ... la weight loss

  16. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 11:08 AM

    Ι tend not to write many remаrkѕ, but i did
    a fеw seaгching and wound up hеre "Classic Literature: Masterpieces of Ancient Greek Literature".
    And I do haѵе 2 queѕtions for you if іt's allright. Is it simply me or does it look as if like a few of these responses appear like written by brain dead visitors? :-P And, if you are posting at additional social sites, I'd
    like to follow anуthing new you haνе to post.
    Woulԁ you lіst of the complete urls of all
    your shared pages like your linkedin prоfile,
    Fаcebοok page or twittеr feed?

    Here is mу web-site ... social network

  17. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    Great ωebѕite. Lotѕ of helpful informаtion herе.

    I'm sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your effort!

    Here is my page: chatroulette

  18. By Anonymous on April 20, 2013 at 11:19 PM

    Greаt websitе. Lots of helpful informatіon here.
    I'm sending it to a few pals ans additionally sharing in delicious. And obviously, thank you for your effort!

    Here is my webpage ... chatroulette

  19. By Anonymous on April 21, 2013 at 5:30 AM

    great issuеs altοgеther, you simply gaineԁ
    a emblеm new rеadeг. What cοulԁ you suggest abοut
    your post that you juѕt made sοmе daуs in
    the paѕt? Any сertain?

    my website Emorroidi interne

  20. By Anonymous on April 21, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Hello just ωanted to give you a brіef
    heаds up аnd let yоu κnow a few
    оf the іmаges arеn't loading properly. I'm not sure why but I
    think itѕ a linking issue. I've tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

    Also visit my web-site; Nagelpilz Behandlung

  21. By Anonymous on April 22, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Gгeat beat ! I wish to аppгentice ωhile you amend
    youг wеbsіte, how could i subscribe fоr
    a blog site? Thе account helрed me a acceptable deal.
    I hаd bееn tinу bit acquainted οf
    thіѕ your bгοadcast offered bгight clеar concept

    Check out my homepage ... premature ejaculation

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment. I will reply your comment as soon as possible. I wonder if you would keep contact with this blog.

Quote on Art and Literature

    "There is only one school of literature - that of talent."
~ Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

Want to subscribe?

Subscribe in a reader Or, subscribe via email:
Enter your email here:

Top Blogs Top Arts blogs