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Reading The Iliad

October 1, 6:30 pm-9:30 pm

|Recurring Event (See all)
for four-week course (see description)

The Bureau is excited to partner with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research to bring you:

Reading the Iliad

Instructors: Bruce King, Laura Slatkin

The Iliad stands at the start of most histories of western literature, even as it remains enduringly strange—often, it seems, at odds with the very tradition it has been taken to inaugurate. In this course, we will read closely the entirety of Homer’s “poem of force,” attempting to recapture both some of its strangeness and its continued relevance. We’ll focus, too, on the following themes: the hero and his commemoration; the relations of men and women, of men and men, of humans, gods, and animals; exile and rebellion; violence and the making of epic art; the recompenses and failures of culture itself. How did an oral tradition of heroic poetry, enacted by singing bards for hundreds of years, coalesce into the written Iliad that we now know? How do the struggles of the Iliadic hero illuminate both consciousness itself and the borders of culture? How does the poem both commemorate and critique its own heroes? How might the struggle over the city of Troy illuminate our own national propensities toward war without end?

One of the strangest elements of the Iliad is its depiction of Achilles, who marks out a queer distance from the norms of heroic culture. Standing at the turbulent center of the poem, amidst great violence, deceit, and godly meddling, is Achilles’ love for his companion Patroclus. In Reading the Iliad, we’ll ask, among other questions: how are we to understand the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus? What, in the poem and in Homeric Greek culture, is the boundary between the homosocial and the homoerotic? What links eros and destruction? What, in reading the Iliad, is the content of a queer critique?

Our primary focus will be on the Iliad itself, but we will also take up a few key texts in Iliadic criticism: Plato, Aristotle, Milman Parry and Albert Lord, and Simone Weil.

*Three scholarship spaces are reserved in each course because we realize that not everyone can afford to pay the full fee for our courses. Students who cannot pay the full fee should email us at to learn about our scholarship options. We will not ask questions about your financial situation but we do ask that you use the system in good faith and consider the needs of other students and faculty members.


October 1
6:30 pm-9:30 pm
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