GROUP WORK I          GROUP WORK II        

Taken together, the group assignments count for 20% of your final grade.  Be assured that I will do my best to be sure that the members of all the groups work well with one another.  Being able to work successfully in a small group is a skill that you will find very valuable outside college.  Here are a few hints to creating a group that works well together:  


DUE: OCT. 14 (Sect. 14) or OCT. 15 (Sect. 25)


             The purpose of this assignment is to sharpen your ability to read a text closely since you will have to figure out the meaning of one literary passage very thoughtfully and then communicate your understanding of the passage to the rest of the class. The Iliad was originally composed for oral recitation to entertain and enlighten ancient audiences. In ancient Athens at annual public festivals, professional singers called Homeridae performed the Iliad and Odyssey for prizes:  Who could best captivate the audience with his dramatization?  This assignment asks you to make a part of this poem come alive for us again.  Who among you will win the prize as the best Homeridae for our "Homer Festival"?

Together with two of your classmates, you will be assigned a specific book or books from the Odyssey. With your mates, choose any passage in this book/books that you all think would be interesting to read aloud dramatically to the rest of the class. You might choose a passage that is dramatic and exciting, or that gives great insight into the characters, or that is humorous and touching, or that is worthwhile for some other reason. Each group will have only SIX MINUTES to deliver its oral presentation on October 14 or 15, so be sure to read aloud the passage you want to use to see if it is the right length.

Once the group has chosen a passage, go on to decide who will speak which parts of the passage. Everyone in the group should have a role. (If there are not enough different characters in the passage for each person, divide one character's lines between two people, or have two people split up the narrator's lines.) Finally--and this is the most important part of the task--decide HOW the lines should be read. The words you emphasize, the feelings you put into them, the speed at which you read them, the gestures you use, even the loudness or softness of your voice, all tell your listeners what you think the lines mean. Those of us in the audience will NOT be using our books to read along with you, so it is up to you to make your passage clear and meaningful to us. Avoid a monotone delivery of your lines at all costs. Be very sure you know how to pronounce all the names and hard words correctly too.

The week before, I will give the groups time in class  to do some work. But you will need to spend some TIME REHEARSING outside of class, perhaps over a weekend. Also, exchange phone numbers and email addresses, and set up a way to communicate with your group members outside of class.  Use email and phones to make sure you are all getting ready.

EACH PERSON should also WRITE A PAGE to hand in on October 14 or 15 saying who in your group did what and honestly evaluating the group's work. This page is my way of knowing how well each group functioned.  Take it seriously, please.  

On the day of the presentations, one person in the group should announce a title for your passage, and then you should all immediately begin. Don't waste time. Come to class FULLY PREPARED and organized.

Your group presentation will be judged on how well the group members work with each other and how well you all convey the meanings you have found in your passage. It's fine if your interpretation is unusual. So long as you make your understanding of the passage BELIEVABLE and DRAMATIC to us listeners, you will have done a good job. Remember: entertain and enlighten us!

Some helpful hints:

•In 6 minutes, I was able to read aloud about 130 lines (about 3 pages) of the Odyssey.

•Be sure you can pronounce names and words in your passage correctly. Check the names in the glossary at the back of the book. Also be sure you can pronounce correctly any words in your passage that are unfamiliar to you. Use a dictionary, or ask me.

Whoever narrates must work HARD not to bore us. Make telling the story as interesting as the dialogue. For long stretches of narration, try moving around as you speak, or changing your tone of voice for the similes, or having two people narrate instead of one.

•You may find it helpful to copy the pages your group chooses and to read from them instead of from the book. You may also want to highlight your lines in some way.

•Audiences enjoy a presentation more if the group members use appropriate facial expressions, gestures, and body movements, and if they speak loudly and clearly. Be dramatic! Don’t keep your head down as you speak your lines. We won’t hear you! This means you need to know your lines well.

•It’s important to know not just your lines but also when to say them. That is, pay close attention to the end of the other group members’ lines before your part begins. Use the end of the previous line as a cue for your entrance. As a group, practice smooth transitions from part to part.

•On the day of the presentations, there will be NO TIME for rehearsing with your group mates. So be sure you have prepared well before October 14 or 15.


7 groups of 3 people each:

Group 1: Iliad, Books 1 & 3

Group 2: Iliad, Books 6 & 9

Group 3: Iliad, Books 14 & 16

Group 4: Iliad, Books 18 & 19

Group 5: Iliad, Books 20 & 21

Group 6: Iliad, Books 22-23

Group 7: Iliad, Book 24



We will meet on Dec. 17 from 9:30 to 11:30, the period assigned to our class for the final exam, to entertain ourselves with group projects. As for the Iliad group dramatizations, each group of students must present for the enjoyment of the rest of the class the special topic assigned to it (by Zeus, fate, luck).  This time, each group will have 8-10 minutes to "do its thing."  You may present your findings in any way that you think will both entertain and enlighten us.  Be inventive, use visual aids (online or in print), be dramatic.  After all, it is holiday time.

Each topic has one or more brief readings to help you think about it in greater depth.  These are available from me, except for books, which are on library reserve.  I want evidence in your presentation that your group has absorbed these readings.  

Prep time is limited, as you all found out when preparing for the other group work, so BE PRACTICAL in what you decide to do. Be sure ALL the members of the group take EQUAL responsibility for getting the work done. Do not make the others in your group do your work. I will allow some class time during November and December and the whole class on Dec. 10 for groups to meet. But this class time will not be enough. So plan on meeting outside of class at least once before the presentation.  

REHEARSALS:  Each group MUST rehearse its presentation for me sometime before the day of the presentations by mutual arrangement between the group members and me.  Since I will not be teaching after Dec. 10, I am very available.  I can also help you come up with lively ideas for your presentation.  I have lots of good suggestions.  Just ask.  Once again, use email and phones to communicate with one another. When your group is not presenting, you are REQUIRED to sit in the audience, so do not plan to rehearse or leave during the session.

Once again, EACH PERSON should write to hand in a ONE-PAGE REPORT on who did what in the project and how the process worked. In addition, EACH GROUP must provide a HANDOUT or ARTIFACT of some kind in enough copies for the other members of the class. The handout or artifact can provide any info to the audience you like: a cast of characters, an ad, a glossary of terms, a voting ballot, an illustration. It can also require the audience to do something.  Be creative. Once again, if you need help with your special topic, talk to me. Visit me in my office, call me, email me.  I'm ready and willing to help.


The Special Topics:  

Greek Armor and Battle Tactics:  From your reading of the Iliad and your tour of the Greek galleries at the Metropolitan Museum, you have some idea of the types of armor used by Greek warriors.  In Daily Life of the Ancient Greeks by Robert Garland, available from me, read pp. 159-70 to see how Greek armor and warfare changed from what we see in Homer to the Age of Pericles, the late 450s b.c., which we learn about from the historian Thucydides.  What made first Athens and then Sparta so successful in warfare?  (Possible scenario: If Achilles met a later Greek warrior in Hades, what would he learn about later ways of war?) 

Achilles and Combat Trauma:  In his book Achilles in Vietnam, Dr. Jonathan Shay theorizes that Achilles in Homer's Iliad suffers from the same symptoms of combat trauma that Dr. Shay saw in the Vietnam veterans who were his patients.  Read some of his chapters on Achilles (the book is on reserve in the JJ Library, RC550.S53.1995) to see what you think of his analysis.  Present his theory and your responses to it.  (For fun, consider a meeting of veterans in a literature class, discussing Achilles as another veteran.)

Finding Troy:  Until the late 19th century, most people believed that Troy was a mythical city, but in 1871, Heinrich Schliemann found it.  How and why did he go looking where he did?  What "evidence" did he use from the Iliad?  What did he find when he dug up the site of the ancient city?  Start by reading parts of Michael Woods' book In Search of the Trojan War (the book is on reserve in the JJ Library).  You can also search for Schliemann.  You could also read the 3-page "Was There a Trojan War?" by Manfred Korfman (available from me).  (For fun, show some old photos of Schliemann's "dig" and the treasures he found.)

The Trojan Women:  What happens to Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen after the Greeks conquer Troy?  Research their myths online and in Euripides' play The Trojan Women, which you should read (borrow copies from me).  Find connections between what they say and do in the Iliad and what happens to them later.  (You might present a scene from Euripides' play, or show vase paintings of these three women as a way of discussing their fates.) 

Greek Games:  Read Daniel Mendelsohn's article, "What Greek Ideal?",  David Young's article "With Hands and Swift Feet," and Christine Kondoleon's "Young Greek Athletes,"  available from me.  The book The Naked Olympics by Tony Perrottet is also on library reserve. You can also read about the ancient Olympics at  Then use this material to discuss Homer's games and attitudes toward them in Book 23 of the Iliad, as contrasted with the games in the ancient and modern Olympics, particularly in their respective purposes.  (For fun, compare "records" from the ancient Olympics to some records held by Olympic athletes today.)

 Love and Sex in the Ancient Near East: What do we learn about prostitution in ancient Mesopotamia from the example of Shamhat in Gilgamesh?  Why was sex outside of marriage regulated by laws in ancient Mesopotamia?  For more info, read "Marriage, Divorce, and the Prostitute in Ancient Mesopotamia" by Martha Roth (available form me).  Read "Love and Sex in Babylon," chap. 6 in Everyday Life in Mesopotamia by Jean Bottero (available from me). Then use this info about real-life sexual relations to discuss the Shamhat/Enkidu episode.  (For fun, consider having Shamhat appear before Judge Judy, suing Enkidu for payment for services rendered.)


Visiting Another World: Consider Gilgamesh's journey to visit Utnapishtim after Enkidu's death. Then search the Internet for info on the ancient Egyptian view of the land of the dead. (Or ask me or look in the library for books on Egyptian mythology.) Consider the journey that Gilgamesh, as well as a dead Egyptian soul, takes, why each takes that journey, what each learns and from whom he learns it, and what happens to him afterward. Is the land of Utnapishtim more like the Egyptian land of the dead, or more like an earthly Paradise, an Eden? (For fun, consider what a modern version of Paradise would look like.)


The Flood Story: Read the biblical version of the great Flood in Genesis, the first book of the Bible, Chapters 6-9, which was written after the Babylonian version we read in Gilgamesh.  (For an online translation of Genesis , go to  Then compare and contrast it with the older version in Gilgamesh. Note especially the differences between the gods in each version and what happens after the flood to Utnapishtim and Noah. How is the biblical version more of a moral tale than the Babylonian version? (For fun, consider the effects of global warming on the earth: Are we headed for another Flood?)


The Delphic Oracle:  What exactly happened in real life at Delphi?  Who was the prophetess who spoke Apollo's words?  How did the process of asking her for a prophecy work?  Read the first chapter of Hugh Bowden's book Classical Athens and the Delphic Oracle and Joan B. Connelly on "The Pythia at Delphi" (both available from me).  How might you present this info in terms of the play Oedipus Tyrannus?  (You might dramatize a scene in which Creon approaches the Delphic oracle to ask about the plague in Thebes.)

Oedipus and the Plague:  In Sophocles' Oedipus Tyrannus, Oedipus's crimes have caused physical disease in Thebes.  Explain the ancient Greek idea of pollution or "miasma."   Read 2 short handouts on this subject (available from me), "Death and Epidemic Disease in Classical Athens," by James Longrigg, and the entry on plague in Greece from Sarah Iles Johnston's Religions of the Ancient World.  Is this ancient Greek idea similar at all to modern ideas about pollution?  (Given the talk these days about global warming due to gases we humans are emitting into the air,  you might present a talk show debating the modern connections between pollution and human responsibility.) 

Going down to Hades: Herakles successfully wrests Alcestis from Death and brings her back to earth.  What other stories did the Greeks tell about living men going down to bring someone or something out of Hades?  Research online or in Edith Hamilton's old book Mythology  two other journeys to and from Hades:  those of Orpheus, of Odysseus, of Theseus and his friend Pirithous, and of Heracles when he went to retrieve Cerberus, the watchdog of Hades as his twelfth Labor.  How are the two you choose different from/similar to Heracles' rescue of Alcestis as Euripides presents it?  Are they all equally successful?  Why do you think the Greeks told so many stories about journeys in and out of Hades?  (For fun, consider a journey into a present-day Hades--what would that be like?)


Dido and Cleopatra: Many of Virgil's contemporaries saw in his portrait of Dido a reflection of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt who had recently seduced the Roman Mark Antony.  Antony was eventually defeated at Actium by Octavian, later Caesar Augustus, who spread the story that Cleopatra had seduced the Roman. Research the history of Cleopatra and Antony. Read an imaginative retelling of Cleopatra's story in Natural History (October, 2008), available from the prof.  And read and explore the images from an exhibit at the British Museum at  You can also explore this website:  Then compare/contrast what happened to Antony and Cleopatra with what happens to Dido and Aeneas in Virgil's poem. (For fun, Dido might meet Cleopatra in the underworld. What would they talk about?)


Roman Love in a Woman: Virgil portrays Dido as both tragic and dangerous to Aeneas and his mission.  For another Roman point of view, read Ovid's "letter of Dido to Aeneas," where Dido seems much more pathetic than she is in Virgil (online at ). (Ovid wrote a series of such fictional poetic letters from women to their lovers, called the Heroides.) Then consider how Dido might be portrayed today.  Would love affect her as it does in the Aeneid or as it does in Ovid's letter, or in some other way?  (For fun, you might dramatize Dido pursuing Aeneas in the 21st century, or you might set up a conversation between Dido and Aeneas about love. Perhaps they meet in the underworld.)


From the Woman's Point of View: Suppose Alcestis and Medea told their stories themselves. What differences might there be from the versions we have in their plays? Read some versions by Jane Cahill in Her Kind: Stories of Women from Greek Mythology, available from me (book). Do you think Cahill's version of ONE woman's story is reasonable? too modern? far-fetched? What difference would this version make to the woman's story, if the Greek writer had used it instead of the story he did use? (For fun, you might interview the woman character you chose for her point of view.)


Catullus' Lover: Who was Clodia, the Roman noblewoman commonly identified as Catullus' "Lesbia"?  What sort of woman was she?  What does her life tell us about the lives of Roman noblewomen in general?  Read "Mistresses and Love Poetry" from Roman Women by Eve d"Ambra, and "Clodia" from Women and Politics in Ancient Rome by Richard Bauman, both available from me.  Then "Google" Clodia for more info.  (For fun, consider how Clodia would defend herself from Catullus' charges if she were to appear on some tv show.)


Four-Letter Words: Why does Catullus use obscenity in some of his poems?  For some possible answers, read the chapter "Obscenity and Humor" from John Godwin's Reading Catullus (available from me).  Then choose a modern performer/artist who uses obscenity in his/her work.  Does this modern artist use it for the same or for different reasons than Catullus?   (For fun, you might show us a video or play us a song by the modern artist you chose.)




Remember that you are both to inform and entertain us with your presentation, so think of an inventive way of presenting your findings. I suggest some ideas in the individual topics above. Here are others:


> Read some of the work dramatically, as you did for the Iliad.


> Present your findings as a debate, a trial, an interview show.


> Create a game, design a theme park, or think up something else visual or physical to represent your findings.


> Use other media in addition to talk: Show illustrations found on the Internet on a computer screen; make a video; make a Powerpoint presentation; create a poem or song; add music to your talk, etc.


 Ask the class to do something that goes along with your presentation (create a word in hieroglyphics, write on clay, come up with their own definition of "madness" or "love," vote on an issue, relate their own experiences to characters you discuss, enjoy something to eat, etc.). Be creative!