Ah, summer. I feel like it's almost over already...which it isn't...but there's so much to do and so little that I've DONE....
For the last few days, I've been reading like crazy (by which I mean, about 3 hours a day--but sometimes 4! I swear!) for this one class I have to teach in the fall. Now I'm a medievalist, as you know, and I've been hired pretty much as a generalist (I'm the new "British Literature" person at VerySLAC). But this one course doesn't even fit into BritLit. Now I figure I can describe it, because it's a pretty common course--it covers things like, oh, Virgil and Homer and Dante. Dante, yes, he's medieval (if not British). But Homer? Virgil? Oh, and Ovid? Sophocles? Those guys? Not so much.
And this is SO not my field. I had to read The Odyssey in the ninth grade, and I've read Oedipus Rex and Antigone at various points in my education, but that's it. So this month I read The Aeneid, and I'm currently working my way through The Iliad.
While I'm finding this material a little on the overwhelming side, I'm actually glad that I'm going to be teaching it. This is the kind of stuff that I have long felt I ought to read and know well, but that I never had the incentive to read and know well. And having to teach something? It kinda forces you to be on at least speaking terms with a text, right? So this is all a very good thing for me.
On the other hand, I can't come up with a syllabus that doesn't have us reading just a ridiculous amount of stuff every week, and that's kind of scary. In the process of reading the first 14 books of The Iliad, however, I've become convinced that certain sections of the text can be, er, skimmed. I'm not skimming now, because I need to ascertain what does and does not require one's full attention, but I might use the skimming policy as a means of packing the whole poem into like 2 weeks. (You know, assign books 1-6 but tell them to just "skim" 2 and 5, or whatever.) It's just...well, there's an awful lot of battle scenes, you know? My apologies to any classicists out there, but I find that my mind sort of wanders when confronted with stanza after stanza of "X hurled his spear at Y, son of Z, riveting his bosom through the nipple, and the blood poured out, red Trojan blood to water the battlefield. And M slew H, son of K, tearing neatly through both his nipples, and F saw this, and wept, crying out...." Etc.
(Okay I made that example up, obviously, but have you noticed how many references there are to (male) nipples in this book? At least, in Fagles' translation? It's kind of weird. And yes, that's pretty much all I'm getting out of the battle scenes: Nipples!)