Illustration of Odysseus tied to a ship's mast

The Odyssey

by Homer

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Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 527

So you’re going to teach Homer's Odyssey. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenges, teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. It will give them unique insight into heroism, adventure, the role of the veteran in society, and the impact of individual free will in an uncontrollable universe. This guide highlights the text's most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 750 BCE 
  • Recommended Grade Level: 9 and up 
  • Approximate Word Count: 117, 600 (in the 1996 English translation by Robert Fagles) 
  • Author: Homer 
  • Country of Origin: Greece 
  • Genre: Epic Poetry 
  • Literary Period: Classical 
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Self, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Supernatural 
  • Narration: Third-Person Omniscient 
  • Setting: The Mediterranean Sea, 1250 BCE 
  • Dominant Literary Devices: Epic Poetry, Epithets, Refrains, Dactylic Hexameter 
  • Mood: Formal, Adventurous, Fantastical

Texts That Go Well With The Odyssey

The Hero with a Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell, provides a detailed reading of Odysseus and his journey as archetypal of the hero and the heroic quest. Originally published in 1945, Campbell’s theory has been applied to—and in some cases influenced— works of popular culture such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and 2001: A Space Odyssey

The Iliad is The Odyssey’s sister epic, narrating an episode of the ancient Greek conquest of Troy. The story centers around a conflict of egos between King Agamemnon and the celebrated Greek warrior Achilles. As the final days of the Trojan War unfold, Achilles confronts his grief, pride, and destiny on the battlefield of Troy. 

Mythology, by Edith Hamilton, is one of the definitive English-language reference works on Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology. First published in 1942, the book traces the origin myths of the Greek tradition, the tales of the classic Greek heroes, the Trojan War, and a sampling of the lesser-known stories. 

The Odyssey, translated by Emily Wilson, is a 2018 publication and the first translation of Homer’s epic into English by a woman. Though all translations of the text are ripe for discussion and comparison, this translation brings a fresh, modern take to Homer’s language and story. 

The Odyssey, a 2010 graphic novel by Gareth Hinds, is a visual retelling of the epic. With watercolor illustrations to impress seasoned readers and support struggling readers, this graphic novel can offer a unique visual dimension to anyone’s experience of the story. 

The Odyssey: A Dramatic Retelling of Homer’s Epic, by Simon Armitage, is a 2006 translation that captures The Odyssey in screenplay format. It transforms the epic into a fast read, while providing teachers an opportunity to invite students to bring the story to life with a dramatization in the classroom. 

An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic, by Daniel Mendelsohn, is a 2017 memoir exploring one classics scholar’s experience teaching a course on The Odyssey. His own cantankerous father enrolls as a student, presenting Mendelsohn with a father-son narrative to parallel that within Homer’s poem.

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