In reading The Odyssey, I admittedly did not spend as much time as I probably should have analyzing the themes, noting the recurring motifs, and keeping track of the symbols for later review. I often found myself so utterly enthralled by the narrative that I lost track of time, and I (regretfully) only took about three days to read through the entire thing. I guess, in a way, that seems to be a bizarre echoing of the timelessness of the work itself.
[I must preface my next comment by saying that I unfortunately I was not able to get a hold of the recommended edition of the text (instead I used one translated by Martin Hammond), and therefore I am only hoping that this holds true.] One thing that struck me in my reading of the Odyssey (this being the first time), just like in my reading of Genesis (also, for the first time), was its abiding quality, purely as a work of literature. The language in the Odyssey is vividly descriptive, which is perhaps one of the reasons that it has been enjoyed so faithfully over the last two millennia. I echo Bonney’s blog post on the Odyssey, in which she stated that her understanding of the text might have been different had she heard it performed orally, and wish only that there was some way of experiencing that for myself.
I was familiar with some of the stories of the Odyssey, as many of Odysseus’ individual exploits are main story lines in the literature which I read as a younger reader (namely, the works by Rick Riordan often incorporate stories such as that of the lotus flower that makes one forget one’s home, the controlling witch, Circe, and the Sirens). I did, however, thoroughly enjoy hearing our guest lecturer, Dr. Marshall, an expert on the subject, provide his insights. What I gained from the lecture, that I had not at all garnered when reading the text myself, included, among others, the importance of the theme of ‘xenos’ in Greek culture, and how much that was not just a part of the Odyssey.
If I were to ever read the Odyssey again (which, given the passion of Dr. Marshall, I now feel compelled to do), I hope to read it with more of an attentive mind on the themes, motifs, and symbols, which I might have missed the first time. It would seem to me that the unfathomable efforts of the hero, Odysseus, deserve at least that much.