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About this Lecture
In this module, we discuss the concept of 'xenia', which has been variously translated as 'hospitality' and 'guest-friendship'. In reality, as Edith explains, the term really refers to the set of (unwritten) rules governing how hosts and guests should behave to one another. The Odyssey is full of both good and bad 'xenia': one the one hand, you have the Cyclops, who does not feed his guests, but eats them; on the other, you have the various receptions that Telemachus receives as he travels round Greece in search of his father.
In this course, we discuss four key themes in Homer's Odyssey. In the first module, we concentrate on the concept of oral poetry - the idea that the Odyssey was not originally written down, but passed orally from generation to generation - and the impact the poem's unique origin on its final, written form. In the second module, we explore the theme of the Homeric hero, arguing that Odysseus represents a totally different kind of hero to that seen in the Iliad. In the third module, we turn our attention to the concept of 'hospitality' or 'guest-friendship' - the Greek concept of 'xenia', while in the fourth and final module, we explore the theme of 'homecoming' in the poem.
Since being awarded the Hellenic Foundation Prize for her Oxford doctorate (1988), Edith has held posts at Cambridge, Oxford, Durham and London Universities. She has published twenty books. She is Co-Founder and Consultant Director of the Archive of Performances of Greek & Roman Drama at Oxford and Chairman of the Gilbert Murray Trust. She has won funding for research from the AHRB, the AHRC, the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, and has just been awarded a Humboldt Research Prize. She appears regularly on BBC Radio, and has acted as consultant to professional productions of ancient drama at the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre, Northern Broadsides, Theaterkombinat and other professional companies.