Experience Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ via folk-opera

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Courtesy of UA Department of Classics

Chicago-based songwriter Joe Goodkin. Goodkin will perform a "folk opera" based on Homer's "The Odyssey" today at 5 p.m.

Ever wonder what folk-opera and Homer have in common? If nothing immediately comes to mind, a new performance coming to campus makes the connection. This afternoon, Joe Goodkin will perform his 24-song, 30-minute folk-opera based on the epic poem “The Odyssey.”

Goodkin is a singer-songwriter based in Chicago. His song has been recognized several times by different establishments, which led him to receive awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

The idea to bring Goodkin to the UA is a collaboration between many groups within university and Tucson communities.

“This event is being organized by the [UA Department of Classics],” said Robert Groves, event coordinator and visiting professor of classics. “And [it] is co-sponsored by the Archaeological Institute of America, Tucson Society, the Hellenic Cultural Foundation, and the School of International Languages, Literature and Cultures.”

The works of Homer are celebrated in classrooms of students of all ages.

“The Homeric epics are seminal in the history both of ancient Greek literature and world literature at large,” said Eleni Hasaki, associate professor of anthropology and classics. “The world of Homer invites several approaches from linguistic analysis of poetic mastery to cultural appreciation of interconnected communities of the eastern Mediterranean. Homer lies at the heart of the department of classics since its early days at the UA.”

Hasaki said she believes students should learn about Homer’s works because they are filled with the values of friendship, hospitality, courage and loyalty. His epics also teach readers about struggles individuals will have to overcome in order to survive.

“Homer’s poems are the beginnings of written literature,” Groves said. “His influence is everywhere. [Homer’s work is] a perfect example of how great literature can both show us important things about our own humanity and give us insight into a foreign culture.”

While the epic relates to contemporary themes through the age-old subjects of family, home and coming of age, it also deviates from standard antique texts, setting it apart from most works of its time. When these aspects come together, it shows that “The Odyssey” is a poem that can bridge the gap between ancient and modern times and continues to appeal to contemporary readers.

The event will take place in the UA Learning Services Building Courtyard from 5-6 p.m. Goodkin’s show is open to the general public; admission is free. After the 30-minute folk-opera, there will be a Q&A session with Goodkin and a reception.

“Attending this event where music and text are combined,” Hasaki said, “the students will appreciate he musical aspect of the epics and the unique ability of bards, both in ancient Greece and in more recent traditional cultures, to recite by memory extremely long poems.”

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