63 internautes sur 64 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
M. H. Bayliss
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The first thing the reader will notice is that this book is much more accessible than more overtly scholarly texts -- this is a good thing for either first time readers or long time fans of Homer's works. The opening chapters set the scene well and explain her methodology of picking special moments that illuminate the work as a whole. I enjoyed the first half of the book tremendously and found many fresh insights and interesting observations about both the Iliad and the Odyssey. My only slight disappointment was with the last 50-100 pages which focus mostly on plot summary of the Odyssey rather than her interesting commentary although she points out things along the way the readers should note. The last section reads more like Cliff's Notes while the first two-thirds of the book genuinely added to the reader's delight in Homer's works. Overall an excellent book.
84 internautes sur 96 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Brann has done a delightful thing in writing Homeric Moments, and in so doing has won, with her much-glancing and everywhere-sparkling wit, a battle in the War on the WC. While many react to the relegation of the essential books to the backshelves of decaying library stacks, Brann has placed one copy of Homer in a magic box so that boys and girls one day, after all the Seven Volumes of Harry Potter are written and digested (a little boy wizard goes a long way), might find something that is more moving than magic, more charming than charmed.
I think many of us who would advocate for the traditional canon are quite aware that nobody's been reading it for years and years. I went off to college in the early 70's (yes, to the place where she taught--although I read Homer with two other incredible teachers, and I don't believe there was a single faculty member in the entire school who couldn't teach Homer). My friends who went to other schools did not read Homer. Or Plato. Certainly not Euclid. Absolutely not Apollonius of Perga on the Conic Sections. So the fiery umbrage over reading books "not like us" seems a little like the lady protesting too much over what is more insubstantial than sound and more fleeting than fury. Yes, I love reading the outraged and wonderful arguments of Harold Bloom--but he's only written for those of us who are so made as to delight utterly in our own pretensions and affectations. Or worse, for those who simply want to buy that lovely big book in the hopes of reading it someday--and who know people seeing it lying around on the sofa will be far more interested in what Bloom has to say about everything than what Ben Johnson has to say about anything (well, enough to read the New York Times Review of Books to find out what Bloom might have to say about something).
Brann has written for anyone, and she just well might succeed in getting a few people off on a race that only starts with Homer--once you start you can't stop,--and you'll be reading Lucretius, Heroditus, Cervantes, Joyce, Tolstoy. It's one of the few ways we have before us to earn the space we take up in this world--letting Homer and his ilk say to us what they would have us hear and teach us what we know we ought to know.
There is a side to the Brann's book, though, that I never expected. The most casual comments about learning (i.e., that you start to learn wisdom only after becoming who you are--finishing the growing up part--because if you aren't who you are, then who's there to grow wise), are stunningly beautiful. Her years of learning are informed by her years of teaching, and the interplay of these two essential, and entirely contrasting, enterprises in the life of a real teacher illuminate this book with a sweetness that I believe few of us get to experience in the halls of academe.
Her delight with Homer reflects, I think, her delight with her own luck at being alive in the world--this is apparent from the smile on her face in the tiny photo on the back.
Come on in. Jump into the wine-colored sea. When you get over thinking how fruity it is to call it wine-colored you just may get drunk on common sea water. Brann's quite willing to pour another glass for you.
50 internautes sur 56 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Christopher H. Hodgkin
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Homer is, sadly, too often intimidating to the general reader who believes, wrongly but understandably, that he is archaic, irrelevant, and likely to be unreadable. After all, a book length poem -- as the contemporary high-schooler would say, give me a break.
Eva Brann accomplishes, remarkably, two quite different achievements. First, she shows that even after nearly three millenia Homer remains completely relevant and accessible to the contemporary reader. Second, she provides insights which make the poem far more enjoyable to read, and demystifies many of the aspects which might confuse the modern reader.
She does this with a subtle but delightful wit, and with a patient wisdom honed in forty years of teaching.
Homer is not simply about the Trojan war and its aftermath, but is about what it means to live a life of honor and integrity. Brann understands this perfectly, and indeed echos it in her book, which is not simply about how to enjoy Homer, but is itself about what it means to be a successful human.
Brann's academic home, St. John's, is one of the few colleges in the country -- probably in the world -- to abandon the concept of academic departments and to focus on the teacher as a guide to the great minds of history rather than as the teacher in his or her own right. This is the perfect background from which she writes a book which is rich in scholarship but in no way academic or professorial.
17 internautes sur 18 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Ms. Brann is a much-beloved Tutor at St. John's College, long a bastion of focus on the "Great Books". She has an amazing ability to reach behind the "scholarly" interpretation of Homer to the essentials that rare relevant for all of us. While the book focuses primarily on the Odyssey and the illuminative "moments" in the text, the Illiad is also well represented.
You will not have to re-read the Illiad and the Odyssey to take great pleasure from Ms. Brann's book, though you will probably want to. She isolates specific areas of the texts as illustrative of the great insights of Homer and demonstrates how these incidences showcase some of the basic thoughts that ultimately resonate through Western literature.
The text is crisp, flows well and "Homeric Moments" makes for interesting, challenging and very enjoyable reading.
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Brann's book serves beautifully as an adjunct to the reading of Homer. As I imply in my title, I found myself sometimes disagreeing with her interpretation but even then her learning has to be acknowledged.
Let me start off by pointing out what she offers to the first time reader of The Odyssey as well as to someone who has read it several times in their life.
First, if you are like me and ignorant of the Greek, reading Brann will make you realize how much of the story, the art of Homer you are missing. She points out many times how the names of individuals reflect their character (The grandfather of Odysseus, a notorious pirate, thief and raider is named Autolycos, The Wolf Himself). She points out how certain words in Greek have multiple meanings that translators must choose between inevitably missing out on some of the slippery insight offered in the original. For example, when Odysseus returns to Ithaca(see the Fagles translation, Book 13, Lines 295-6), the goddess Athena tells him that "I knew deep down that you would return at last, with all your shipmates lost". This phrase about Odysseus' "Returning" (Brann points out helpfully that 'returning' is practically a technical term in The Odyssey) occurs several times throughout the epic. The thing is that the word translated "lost" can also mean "destroyed" or "killed". The certainly changes the meaning of the line applied to Odysseus.
Secondly, Brann is a very thoughtful reader who concentrates her intelligence on all aspects of the story. The Odyssey is not told linearly. We start off very much toward the end of the tale. Much of the story is told by Odysseus to other characters. Brann provides time lines that point out symmetries that might well be missed by inattentive readers (like myself). For example:
"Just when a middle-aged Odysseus tells a young princess that he will pray to her as a deity all his life, a youthful Telemachus tells an elderly queen that he will worship her as a divinty when he gets home" (Braan, p. 256) This sort of insight built upon a specific reading technique if useful not just for deepening our appreciation of what Homer is doing but in teaching how to read all books that are worthy of our concentrated reading.
Thirdly, Brann gives you an introduction into the way that Homer had penetrated the souls of many of the writers who make up the Western Canon and modern authors. In fact, I found myself wishing she would edit an anthology of all the writers and poets who have thought hard about and written passionately about incidents in Homer. She quotes many throughout her book: Shakespeare, Keats, Montaigne, Wallace Stevens, Auden, Pound, Edwin Muir, Tennyson, Rupert Brooke and ad infinitum. I guarantee you that some of the quotes are of such beauty as to send you scurrying off to look up the complete original. Bonus!!
So what are my doubts about Brann? She is what I would call a loose Straussian. This is not a bad thing-in my own way, so am I. As such, she is given over to the sort of hermeneutic oddities that Straussians love (and which occassionally make their books so important). For example, am I the only reader to notice that Brann's 48 chapters is the same number of chapters or books that are contained in The Iliad and The Odyssey as traditionally divided? This fact has no great meaning. It is just the sort of touch that Straussians love to bedevil us with.
More seriously, Brann early on in her book rejects the Homeric question as being besides the point. She finds it more interesting to just assume that Homer was one guy who largely created the two epics as we have them. She does not care particularly about the transition from oral performance to a final written product. All the contradictions that led so many to see in Homer a consortium of writers or traditions are to Brann just part of the way that Homer reveals his vision to us.
Now I happen to agree with her. It is far more interesting to read the epics that way. But it is an enormous assumption. I'm just saying.
My real problem with Brann has to do with aspects of her interpretations. She, to my reading, glosses over the whole dalliance with Circe by Odysseus in order to protect her image of Odysseus as a good husband. She glosses over the slaughter of the twelve maids far too easily. (And isn't there an obvious similarity to the twelve Trojan youths that Achilles sacrifices during Patroclus' funeral? Why is that never explored? But most importantly, Brann wants to write off Odysseus' journey into the "fairyland" of Polyphemos, the Sirens, Circe, Calypso, etc. as his soul's fairy tale version of his wandering around the Meditterean being a pirate for ten years (see Chapter 39). I don't buy that for a second.
But that's me. You may find her more convincing on that point. Since I am such a positive guy, I want to end off on one of her points of interpretation that I was both startled by and convinced of. Brann is sure that Penelope recognizes Odysseus from the moment she first hears his voice. She reads that whole wonderful sequence of scenes during which Odysseus (disguised as a begger) and Penelope discuss her situation and the possibility that Odysseus will return anytime soon. In Brann's reading the ending of The Odyssey becomes even more thrilling and tense with subtle signals between Penelope and Odysseus being exchanged and understood.
Brann is also excellent in making us understand the conflict between Odysseus and the suitor's families after the slaughter. He has just laid waste to a generation of the local nobility of Ithaca and the nearby islands. But the companions that he took to Troy and lost/detroyed on the way home were a previous generation of that same nobility. Some of his companions were father or uncles of some of the suitors. In that light, it is especially easy to understand that the local gentry want to put an end to him. One of the names that Brann likes to unpack the meaning of is Odysseus' own name. One of its meaning is to give suffering (Brann, p.143). Yet another important insight.
I will leave you with one last Homeric moment that Brann gave me. She points to one simile as Homer's most beautiful. It occurs when Penelope finally stops testing Odysseus and embraces him. Somehow, I had not read this moment attentively. Brann brought me back to it and to its image of a lover coming home to a loved one with the same feeling that someone who is shipwrecked feels when they come to land. Just speaking for myself, having Brann guide me back to reading that passage with the concentrated appreciation it deserves justifies her book all by itself.