By Patrick Carper ‘21
Joe Goodkin will perform his lyrical rendition of Homer’s Odyssey on campus next Thursday, November 2. The University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate’s shows his “30 minute-long composition for solo acoustic and voice, which deconstructs the story of the Odyssey in song. Admittance is free and open to the public.
According to Bronwen Wickkiser, Theodore Bedrick Associate Professor of Classics, Grecian bards, or oral poets, historically delivered The Odyssey, The Iliad, and other famous fables orally to gatherings.
“When we consume the Odyssey today, we do so through modern conventions,” Wickkiser said. Wickkiser believes listening to a poem in a group-setting engages more of the senses, hears the speaker’s tone, perceives the speaker’s body language, and feels the atmosphere of the room. All this hints at the ancient experience of digesting the Odyssey.
In his performance, Goodkin seeks to, “recreate the original experience of hearing the story of the Odyssey sung.” He adapted the text’s language to connect the themes with modern audiences, hoping to impart the same concepts that impacted him when he first experienced the story as a college freshman.
Goodkin first reached out to Wickkiser about performing his composition on campus a couple years ago. With multiple classes in the Classics Department currently studying the original text of the Odyssey or modern translations of it, Wickkiser decided it was the right time to invite Goodkin to campus.
Classics and Greek major Brandon Johnson ‘18 believes the oral tradition is one of the precious few ways the modern world can connect with ancient culture.
“Seldom do we get to experience the feelings that were felt throughout crowds thousands of years ago,” Johnson said. “Without oral tradition, we would lose these feelings, just as we would lose our understanding of the importance of Greek religion without the Acropolis, or of Roman entertainment and public life without such places as the Colosseum, the Forums, the Circus Maximus,” Johnson said.
“You can only learn so much from words on a page,” Johnson said.
The event is next 7:30 p.m., Thursday, November 2.