This is an eclectically organized analysis of myths from around the world, focusing on patterns which come up in all myths, regardless of location. Voth speaks about creation myths, tricksters, heroes and heroines, destruction myths, and how we can look at all these patterns to see some basic truths about ourselves as humans.
I learned a great deal from this series of lectures, though it left me feeling a bit frustrated. Voth, by focusing on the analytical side and on the patterns of myth, did not have time to tell the myths in their entirety. As such, I am ready to devour books upon books telling the actual stories that he merely touched upon.
I definitely do recommend this course for anyone who knows little of world mythology and is curious to learn more, or wants some direction to go for their research.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
The last time I experienced the Iliad was when I had to read it as a freshman in high school. It was interesting to return to it with a more adult perspective, and to appreciate Homer's poetic imagery; the ancient ideals of heroic conduct; the timeless tragedy of war and human pride; and the way the ancient mind saw gods as capricious meddlers in human affairs, reaching down to bestir or chill the warrior's heart, or to guide a weapon towards or away from its target. To what extent Homer's audience really believed in the gods of his tale, or recognized them as dramatizations, is unclear to me. Yet, the genius of his story is that the audience can see it both ways. For generations of listeners, this tale must have stood like a Colossus with one foot in the real, solid world and one foot in the mists of myth.
Mitchell's translation aims to capture the way the Iliad was meant to be told: read aloud with feeling. He does so by stripping away a lot of the archaic phrasing and epithets that I remember from high school, leaving behind verse that's simple, tight, dynamic, and speaks directly to modern listeners. Some readers, of course, will be offended by his presumptuousness at "editing" a classic, but others will appreciate his efforts to make the passions of the story more accessible. A good litmus test is the scene where a soldier admonishes Paris as a "sissy" -- do you read that as a coarse, stinging insult (as was intended by the speaker), or a flagrant anachronism? (Most of the language isn't so "modern", but that was a more noticeable example.)
If you can roll with the "spirit of the work" interpretation, then Alfred Molina's masculine but sensitive audiobook performance is a great fit, capturing the frantic motion of combat, the smoldering resentment of Achilles, the feckless golden-boy attitude of Paris, and the anguish of Priam. No longer the dusty archetypes I remember from English class, the characters now come to life as human and flawed.