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The Iliad

WINTER WEEKEND 2012: Homer’s The Iliad

March 9-10, 2012
Bowdoin College
Brunswick, Maine

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of Winter Weekend, the Maine Humanities Council returns to the epic poet with whom we started this popular series of public humanities programs in 1997. This time, we explore Homer’s The Iliad—the earliest surviving work in European literature and the foundational text of Greek civilization.

The Iliad takes place over 51 days, somewhere in the 9th or 10th year of the Trojan War. Amid a huge cast of memorable characters—and a crew of scheming Olympians sublimely indifferent to human suffering—three warriors stand out: the godlike and self-absorbed Achilles, the Tony Soprano-like Agamemnon, and the doomed Hektor, tamer of horses.

The story reaches its emotional peak in one of the greatest scenes in all of literature: the nighttime visit to the tent of Achilles by the aged King Priam of Troy to beg for the mutilated body of his son.

Homer asks questions that have perplexed writers and artists ever since: is war inevitable as a “normal” human condition? Are we hard-wired as a species to want to destroy one another?

Long read as a celebration of the martial spirit, The Iliad may actually contain a powerful warning about the futility of war.

Speakers include:
  • Dr. Caroline Alexander, author of The War That Killed Achilles: The True Story of Homer's Iliad and the Trojan War will present "Reading The Iliad in 2012."
  • Peter Aicher, Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern Maine will present "Was There a Troy and Why Does It Matter?"
  • Joel Rosenthal, President of the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs will present "War, Peace, and Conflict Resolution: What Homer Has to Teach Us."
  • Roberta Stewart, Associate Professor at Dartmouth College will present "Manhood and Militarism in Homer."
  • Jeannine Diddle Uzzi, Professor of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures at the University of Southern Maine will present on women in The Iliad.

Winter Weekend is a humanities experience. For lectures and discussions, we bring together not only academic literary specialists but also historians, writers, artists, museum curators, public intellectuals, and others to help us understand each year’s book in its rich historical and cultural context.

We will be reading Robert Fagles’s acclaimed translation of The Iliad, available in paperback or hardcover. Local libraries and bookstores may also be able to provide the recorded version read by Sir Derek Jacobi.

In recognition of the generosity of Winter Weekend sponsors, the MHC has opened the early registration opportunity for sponsors starting June 16 (non-sponsors can begin signing up on July 18, 2012). If you are not currently a sponsor but are interested in this option, please contact MHC Director of Development, Diane Magras.

Winter Weekend 2012 will take place March 9 and 10 at Bowdoin College in Brunswick. The $225 registration fee includes a paperback copy of the book (the hardcover is available for a $250 registration fee), background readings, a reception, dinner, lunch, and coffee. CEUs are available for teachers. Limited scholarships are available for college and high school students. The program starts at 5 p.m. on Friday and continues until mid-afternoon on Saturday.

To register by mail, please print off the form, as a Word document (19kb) or as a PDF document (72kb), and send it to the Maine Humanities Council, 674 Brighton Avenue, Portland ME 04102.

We have a one-page list of some over-night accommodations in the greater Brunswick area; download it as a pdf form.

The Inn at Brunswick Station, across the street from Bowdoin, is offering Winter Weekend participants a special rate of $129 for Friday night ($159 includes breakfast). To get this rate, participants should call the hotel (207-837-6565) and ask for the Maine Humanities Council Winter Weekend rate.

A map of Bowdoin can be found on the Bowdoin website.

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