The project of nation building, of bringing a national identity into existence, is often regarded as a defining aspiration of many ancient and modern epic poems. Yet one of the many surprising things about Homer and his successors is how little nationalism their texts embody, in the sense of dehumanizing or “othering” those who do not share the ethnocultural identity whose heroes and great deeds their poems celebrate and memorialize. This course will examine some of the epics of Homer, Virgil, and Derek Walcott, as well as some works of history and philosophy, and draw out the ways in which compassion and connection manifest across lines of identity.
This course fulfills the Humanities requirement.
David Wray is an Associate Professor in the Classics Department at the University of Chicago. He is the author of Catullus and the Poetics of Roman Manhood (Cambridge 2001), a coeditor of Seneca and the Self (Cambridge 2009), and is currently writing Ovid at the Tragic Core of Modernity. His research and teaching interests include Hellenistic and Roman poetry (especially Apollonius Rhodius, Catullus, Lucretius, Virgil, Tibullus, Ovid, Seneca, Lucan, and Statius); Greek epic and tragedy; Roman philosophy; ancient and modern relations between literature and philosophy; gender; theory and practice of literary translation; and the reception of Greco-Roman thought and literature, from Shakespeare and Corneille to Pound and Zukofsky.