9th Grade hears from Greenhills’ own expert on The Odyssey
Ninth grade students attended a very special grade-level assembly on The Odyssey Oct. 2–one led by Michael Powers, who teaches Latin to middle and upper school students at Greenhills.
In English class, students are beginning their lengthy study of this 3000 year old bastion of western literature, so 9th grade English teachers Catherine Baldante, Amy Ward, and Kelly Williams sought Powers’ expertise in Classical Studies to help set the foundations of inquiry for the unit.
“Providing students with an interdisciplinary perspective on The Odyssey brings added value to their study of the text,” Baldante said.
In the assembly, Powers shared multiple translations of the opening lines of The Odyssey, which was originally written in ancient Greek. He emphasized that each distinct English translation of the opening epithet (or descriptive phrase) used for Odysseus comes from the same Greek word: polytropon. The literal translation of that word means “many turns,” but scholars translating The Odyssey have interpreted polytropon to mean “of many devices,” “ingenious,” and “twists and turns.” Powers invited students to consider the implications of these differences as they study the character of Odysseus in English class.
In addition to discussing translation, Powers emphasized the complexity of masculine and feminine roles in the story, which aligns with ninth grade English teachers’ focus on gender as one of the major themes of the text. Leaving students with plenty to think about, Powers asked “What does it mean to be a man or a woman in ancient Greece? What does it mean to be a goddess with masculine qualities, as we see with Athena? How is this story as much about Penelope as it is about Odysseus?”
The questions certainly seemed to be finding their mark as students left the assembly.”Now,” said one, “I’m really excited about The Odyssey!”