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The Odyssey of Homer

Take a detailed look at Homer's ancient Greek masterpiece of adventure.

The Odyssey of Homer is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 142.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course in the Great Courses I listened to two courses of Professor Vandiver--one on the Illiad, the other on the Odyssey. Both were just terrific. The presenter has a great storytelling style and conversational delivery that make the courses easy to listen to. And they were filled with such great insights. There was a nice balance between overview and detail; she would zoom out when suitable to provide needed background and then zoom in to concentrate on salient details. I would highly recommend both of these courses.
Date published: 2023-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent, Perfect Level of Detail I thought the Professor did an excellent job of distilling and describing this ancient work. I had a far better grasp of the story and its themes than I did when we studied the book in school. She kept my attention and interest throughout. Recommended without reservations.
Date published: 2023-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth every minute! Elizabeth Vandiver is one of my favourite presenters. She speaks clearly, shows enthusiasm, explains just enough to keep things interesting without going into every last boring detail. Her lectures are great overviews of the subjects. Don't get me wrong, they aren't short (6-12 hours), so one feels like one learns enough to want to learn even more. Definitely recommend!
Date published: 2022-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extraordinary presentation This was a superbly delivered analysis of The Oddessey. Makes me want to learn more. Well organized and superbly presented
Date published: 2022-09-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Extremely enlightening I had gone over this epic when an undergraduate student. Professor Vandiver does a super job in discussing this famous epic. I wish I had had her as a classics teacher.
Date published: 2022-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Enjoyable I listened to this after listening to the lecturer's course on the iliad ( and am currently listening to the aeneid - when I encounter a good lecturer I like to check out their other courses too ). The lecturer talks very fast but very clearly. She puts the text in historical context and discusses where modern attitudes are very different to those of the ancient Greeks. She is very balanced when discussing different viewpoints but not afraid to clarify her own viewpoint. I haven't yet read either the Iliad or the Odyssey but I believe having taken these two courses is going to increase my enjoyment of both. I can recommend both to someone who is listening/watching for enjoyment or who wants a supplement to a school or college course. The great courses app seems to randomly make me re-listen to a lecture rather than move on to the next one and I was generally happy to re-listen and pick up something I missed on the first hearing.
Date published: 2022-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Journey Really enjoyed the lectures, wish the Iliad was available by the same instructor.
Date published: 2022-07-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presenter. This is an in depth analysis. And done with such wit and grace.
Date published: 2022-07-02
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Take a detailed look at Homer's ancient Greek masterpiece of adventure. Professor Elizabeth Vandiver's The Odyssey of Homer focuses on timeless themes contained in the warrior Odysseus's voyage home through strange lands and encounters with gods, witches, warriors, and monsters. Explore the cultural assumptions that lie behind Homer's lines, weigh the poem's critical and interpretative issues, and come to view the Homeric world as a place of conflict, trial, and return that helps us answer the question of what it means to really live.


Elizabeth Vandiver

I think many of the stories that we tell ourselves as a society–the stories that encode our hopes, aspirations, and fears–preserve the traces of classical culture and myth and are part of our classical legacy.


Whitman College

Dr. Elizabeth Vandiver is Professor of Classics and Clement Biddle Penrose Professor of Latin at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She was formerly Director of the Honors Humanities program at the University of Maryland at College Park, where she also taught in the Department of Classics. She completed her undergraduate work at Shimer College and went on to earn her MA and PhD from The University of Texas at Austin.

Prior to taking her position at Maryland, she held visiting professorships at Northwestern University, the University of Georgia, the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies in Rome, Loyola University of New Orleans, and Utah State University.

In 1998, The American Philological Association recognized her achievements as a lecturer with its Excellence in Teaching Award, the most prestigious teaching prize given to American classicists. In 2013 she received Whitman College's G. Thomas Edwards Award for Excellence in Teaching and Scholarship. Her other awards include the Northwestern University Department of Classics Excellence in Teaching Award and two University of Georgia Outstanding Honors Professor Awards.

Professor Vandiver is the author of Stand in the Trench, Achilles: Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War and Heroes in Herodotus: The Interaction of Myth and History. She has also written numerous articles and has delivered many papers at national and international conferences.

By This Professor

Heroes' Homecomings

01: Heroes' Homecomings

After an overview of the background story, we examine the difference between a kleos epic such as The Iliad, with its primary focus on glory, and a nostos epic such as The Odyssey, which deals with homecoming. We then examine The Odyssey's own complicated chronology and plot.

33 min
Guests and Hosts

02: Guests and Hosts

This lecture defines and examines xenia, guest-host relations, which is a key concept in The Odyssey. How does xenia permeate the first four books of The Odyssey and affect our understanding of Telemachos and the suitors? Why does Homer continually evoke Agamemnon's story as a parallel to that of Odysseus? What drives Telemachos?

31 min
A Goddess and a Princess

03: A Goddess and a Princess

In this lecture, we examine the first appearance of Odysseus, in Book V, and his interaction with Kalypso and later the Phaiakian princess Nausikaa. The lecture focuses on the rhetorical skills of Odysseus, and on his desire to return home and re-establish his own identity. Finally, we discuss the ongoing thematic importance of xenia.

31 min
Odysseus among the Phaiakians

04: Odysseus among the Phaiakians

We see Odysseus as bard, relating a narrative of his adventures to his Phaiakian hosts. These lead us to ponder key themes of xenia and glory. We ask whether The Odyssey handles the latter theme the same way The Iliad does. Book IX brings us to the famous encounter with the Cyclops.

31 min
Odysseus Tells His Own Story

05: Odysseus Tells His Own Story

We continue following Odysseus's retelling of his "Great Wanderings." His encounter with Circe raises the issue of the sexual double standard in Homer. Finally, the lecture looks at the first half of the pivotal episode in the Great Wanderings, Odysseus's sojourn among the dead in Hades.

31 min
From Persephone's Land to the Island of Helios

06: From Persephone's Land to the Island of Helios

We note how Odysseus tailors his Hades narrative to his Phaiakian audience. A question has always troubled readers of Homer: Is Odysseus telling the truth?

29 min
The Goddess, the Swineherd, and the Beggar

07: The Goddess, the Swineherd, and the Beggar

This lecture begins our study of the second half of The Odyssey by discussing the change in pace and subject matter in the Ithakan books. From Book XIII onward, the pace is much slower, and the challenges Odysseus faces are very different from those we have seen earlier. The lecture looks in detail at Odysseus's arrival on Ithaka and the situation he finds there.

30 min
Reunion and Return

08: Reunion and Return

Books XVI and XVII include Odysseus's reunion with Telemachos, and his entry, disguised as a beggar, into the royal court of Ithaka. Throughout the poet stresses how hard Odysseus must strive to conceal his emotions during a series of encounters. Each encounter reiterates Odysseus's supreme self-control and moves him closer to the tremendous danger and difficulty that await him in his own palace.

29 min
Odysseus and Penelope

09: Odysseus and Penelope

In Book XIX we hear two lengthy conversations between the disguised Odysseus and Penelope that are separated by a scene in which Odysseus's old nurse recognizes him. We look at the significance of Odysseus's name, and then at the great enigma of whether Penelope recognizes the ragged beggar.

30 min
Recognitions and Revenge

10: Recognitions and Revenge

Books XX to XXII recount the "contest of the bow," Odysseus's revelation of his identity to the loyal slaves Eumaios and Philoitios, and the slaughter of the suitors. We continue to ask what Penelope knows, and what motives drive her, and then ask: Were Odysseus's slaughter of the suitors and the disloyal slave woman justified?

31 min
Reunion and Resolution

11: Reunion and Resolution

The final lecture on The Odyssey turns to the final reunion of Odysseus and Penelope in Book XXIII, and to resolve several themes in Book XXIV. The lecture analyzes the tremendous symbolic and narrative significance of Odysseus's and Penelope's marriage bed. Finally, we look at Book XXIV and discuss whether The Odyssey's conclusion is an effective one.

31 min
The Trojan War and the Archaeologists

12: The Trojan War and the Archaeologists

What can history and archaeology tell us about the Trojan War? We examine the famous 19th-century excavations of Heinrich Schliemann and touch on some of the controversies he left behind. Finally, we trace the discoveries made by more recent excavators.

30 min