Keeping Homer alive

Lakers read 'The Odyssey' for 24 straight hours

By Maddie Forshee | 10/28/15 8:41pm

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GVL / Maddie Forshee Kendall Farkas participates in the bi-annual reading of Homer's The Odyssey Oct. 28 in the Mary Idema Pew Library.


Literature can be celebrated in many ways. While festivals are more common, Grand Valley State University is hosting a 24-hour long marathon reading to celebrate the work of Homer.

GVSU hosted the fifth bi-annual Homerathon on Tuesday and Wednesday. The 24-hour marathon reading of Homer’s "The Odyssey" aimed to showcase the timelessness of the epic text and bring together the campus community in celebration of literature.

Homerathon began in 2007 as an effort to expose students to more classic literature in a fun, interesting way. The event gets students, faculty and staff involved to do readings or act out scenes from the book, as well as speakers and movie screenings that relate to the subject.

“It’s an opportunity to see just how cohesive the university can be when coming together in a celebration like this,” said Charles Ham, assistant classics professor and organizer of the event.

Each Homerathon has a different theme and features a different work of Homer. This year dives into "The Odyssey" because the last Homerathon featured "The Iliad."

Homerathon’s theme this year is Star Trek. Ham said that even though "The Odyssey" and Star Trek have vastly different subjects, both center around traveling to new places and exploring new civilizations.

The keynote speaker for Homerathon was Ruth Scodel, a Greek and Latin professor from the University of Michigan. Scodel kicked off the readings this year with her presentation titled “Reading Other Minds in the Odyssey,” which was explored the topic of cognitive theory and thinking in literature.

“I like ('The Odyssey') because it’s pretty cutting edge scholarship,” Scodel said. “Anybody who reads the poem in translation can understand it - it’s not hard to follow and in moments, it’s funny.”

Scodel also started the reading marathon by reading the beginning of book one of "The Odyssey" in Greek.

"The Odyssey" is an epic poem, which means it is mostly composed of long passages and was originally recited orally. Students, faculty and staff were invited to speak for as long as they wanted, whether it was for five minutes or 30 minutes. Most speakers read a passage or two, while students from GVSU’s Classics Society recited an entire book together.

GVSU’s administrators even got involved with Homerathon. President Thomas Haas, Provost Gayle Davis, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Fred Antzcak and Vice President Jesse Bernal from the Inclusion and Equity Office all performed a short section from "The Odyssey" together on Wednesday.

Homerathon held a scavenger hunt and a screening of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in addition to the readings to keep people interested and energized. GVSU’s Classics Society sponsored the movie screening and even took part in the late-night readings by performing book nine during the 2 a.m. until 3 a.m. block. It was required for classics students to read in ancient Greek.

“You don’t necessarily need to understand what it means to get the spirit of what Homer put together and how it was performed,” said Kendall Farkas, president of Classics Society.

Ham agreed. He said that while some students may not be familiar with Homer, they should still attend the event to learn about it.

“It’s an opportunity to introduce students to the Homeric poems, one of the masterpieces of Western literature,” he said. “The event is in part a celebration of those poems.”

This year's Homerathon attracted more than 150 students over the course of the day-long event.

For more information about the classics department and Homerathon, visit www.gvsu.edu/classics.

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