Odyssey season is upon us! Unless you too want to wander around the rocky islands of 9th Grade trying to get home, you would do well to heed our Olympian decree to keep up with the readings and get that final project done.
For the (24!) books of the epic, you have plenty of resources in getting the gist of the plot so you can focus more on our essential questions and archetypes. So, as the grey-eyed one provided Odysseus the tools he needed to be successful, this post is Part I of our mission to get you out of here in one, sophomoric, piece.
Besides the class books and graphic novels/comics, check out these links to get your Mentor on!
Traditional guides: the safety net of Sparknotesand the too-cool-for-school ethos of Shmoop(which has some funny infographics peppered throughout, and way too many popups…)
Full-text versions of the epic: including Ian Johnston’s recent translationout of Vancouver Island University, and two prose translations, old(A.T. Murray) and older (Samuel Butler).
And some really interesting new-media options: including some open/ed. designs from our community of Padlet(this one’s Verity Webster’s) and a fascinating, and highly distracting, clickable offeringfrom Emery University’s Carlos Museum. Clicking on the Greecetab will take you to the interactive site (Flash required).
Of course, we have the in-class options, but the Odyssey is one of the biggest stories ever told! You should journey onto the kool-aid seas of the internet to get the best version for you.
May this be your month! To keep the classroom humming productively for the next four long weeks, this month’s playlist is a nice mix of thumpin’ seasonal picks, an Odyssey-themed setlist, and a summer concert series that I’m personally looking forward to. What will you do this month to make summer worth the wait?
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – The Waiting
Rihanna feat. Jay-Z – Umbrella
OMC – How Bizarre
Tori Kelly – Nobody Love
Summer Camp – Down
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Darlington County
The Kingsmen – Louie Louie
Nashville Cast – The Book
Dawes – From a Window Seat
Shiny Toy Guns – Earth Below Us
Christodoulos Halaris – Hymn to the Muse (Trad.)
David Bowie – Heroes
The Lively Ones – Surf Rider
AWOLNATION – Sail
Mumford & Sons – The Cave
The Alarm – The Stand
The Pretty Reckless – Heaven Knows
The Strumbellas – Spirits
Leon Bridges – Smooth Sailin’
Chet Faker – Gold
Adele – Water Under the Bridge
Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch (O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack) – I’ll Fly Away
Tom Waits – Long Way Home
M83 – Midnight City
The Avett Brothers – Live and Die
Nahko and the Medicine for the People – San Quentin
If you’ve looked at this page but once, you know that the Bard is a pretty big deal around here. Today, then, would be remiss without an annual commemoration of his birth/death-day with some extra, added momentum. The whole world is turning out for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s (bodily) death, with touring productions, social media campaigns, reams of newsprint, and random English teachers’ blog posts. However, there is one special event that will be making its way to our humble corner of the world later this year.
From Sept 7 – 30, you can see one of these Folios, a repository of some of the greatest words ever penned by the human race, for the price of admission, which is typically FREE! While a trip to DC may be a prerequisite for American-ness, let’s be honest and say that this opportunity is likely your best bet to join in one of the most important celebrations available to young scholars and citizens of the world. Rather than leave you with yet another quote or pun on the topic, I think it suffices to let the plays speak loudest. Do yourself a favor and bask in the (probably musty) glory of all that is wonderful, inventive, and essential by checking it out next Fall!
As you can expect, reading is a big part of my summer break. I mean, it’s a big part of my day at any point in the year, but in the summer I can read a lot more of what I consider to be fun. (I still enjoy reading in the school year, when I’m absorbing the same works you students do, as well as my grad school and professional readings – but here I get a little more choice!) What I don’t do often is reread a book shortly after I’ve finished it. Who has the time? One of the best exceptions to this rule, and one of the best reads I had this summer, was in Mark Siegel’s graphic novel Sailor Twain (from First Second, 2012).
Sailor Twain is centered on Elijah Twain, the writer-captain of a Hudson River steamship in the 1880s. (Twain, by the by, is of no relation to the author, who our captain must frustratingly point out is actually a Mr. Clemens.) Joining the bedeviled sailor is the ship’s gruff and motley crew, including the womanizing owner of the ship, Lafayette, as well as a foul-mouthed helmsman, two stowaways, a mysterious engineer, and a various assortment of New York passengers (keep an eye out for cameos from the likes of Walt Whitman, Edgar Allan Poe, and even Stephen King!). And, of course, there is the mermaid of the full title, who Twain must decide is either savior or siren.
Available at the Laramie County Library, this text holds many epic qualities: an expansive and realized cast of characters, elements of fantasy interwoven in spirituality, and a portrait of near-mythic America on the Hudson River. As a work of historical fiction, the world of the narrative is well centered in established movements and attitudes of America’s Gilded Age. What’s more, the artwork – almost entirely in charcoal – is evocative and symbolic. The rainy atmosphere and river setting were easily imagined despite our dusty August heat. Most importantly, Siegel’s use of motif, ambiguity, and doubling are absorbing. You are almost obligated to reread the novel to add your newfound evidence to the intricate clues.
This novel is definitely for mature readers (sexuality, complexity, language), but is my August pick for seniors to read, for two key reasons. First, it makes a great review of the themes of American Literature for those of you who survived last year. Second, Sailor Twain leads nicely into both senior classes’ content, addressing similar themes and also introducing you to the graphic novel format, which you can expect to see in the upcoming school year. In conclusion, it is important to read books and genres outside of your usual experiences. Anyone who still thinks, in 2015, that comics or graphic novels aren’t necessarily “real” literature needs to see what they are missing out on in Mark Siegel’s new American classic, Sailor Twain.