Cover image for A companion to Homer's Odyssey
A companion to Homer's Odyssey
Morrison, James V., 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xiv, 210 pages : illustrations, maps ; 27 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PA4167 .M75 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Odysseus lost his way, but students shouldn't have to. This delightful companion, written in a lively narrative style and full of fresh insights and interpretations, offers teachers a wealth of ideas for making Homer's timeless epic come alive for students. Introductory chapters provide the historical and mythological background necessary to fully appreciate the events in the Odyssey. A fascinating essay acquaints students with Homeric values and another examines the Odyssey as literature, offering expert discussion of the work's structure and poetic features and situating it in the oral tradition it exemplifies. Maps, charts, tables, and photographs help readers further appreciate the story and its historical context. At the core of this resource are units on each of the 24 books of the Odyssey; each is attractively presented with an illustration, plot synopsis, and discussion of theme and character development.

Well-placed sidebars offer supplemental information on various facets of classical antiquity, such as the position of women in Ancient Greece, the role of competitive sports, and interesting etymological aspects of the Greek language. At the back of the book is a listing of main characters, along with a handy pronunciation guide. Additional appendices explore the enduring influence of the Odyssey in literature, the arts, and even popular culture, with a separate section examining Odyssean themes in movies. Useful ideas for activities and classroom projects are offered, as are suggestions for further reading and online research.

Author Notes

JAMES V. MORRISON is Associate Professor of Classical Studies and NEH Professor of the Humanities at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. He is author of Homeric Misdirection: False Predictions in the Iliad and numerous articles on classical literature, mythology, and history.

Reviews 2

School Library Journal Review

Gr 10 Up-Complementary aids to one of the West's foundational works. After an analysis of central themes, the Johnsons devote six chapters to context (mythology, geography, archaeology, history, the Trojan War, and the social structures of the Achaeans). They close by examining contemporary echoes of the issues of revenge, athletics, and the heroic ideal. Each chapter also includes relevant documents, projects or questions for exploration, and a bibliography. Little attention is paid to the Internet, and there are two abominable maps, but this is an intelligent and well-conceived book. Morrison takes readers book-by-book through the epic. Opening chapters discuss structure, the oral tradition, Homeric values, and history. The author's style is enthusiastic and takes a personal tone. The informative text and sidebars provide a wealth of information on literary form, themes, techniques, background, context, linguistic insights, and later influence. A few black-and-white pictures show Greek artworks or artifacts, and the three small maps are useful. Brief appendixes cover pronunciation, the literary legacy, further reading, online connections, and more. Although accessible and engaging rather than scholarly and exhaustive, Companion does go beyond the guides available online. Neither book ties itself to a single translation; both open the epic to first-time readers. If your budget will stretch to only one title, the Johnsons' volume is the one of choice. It will save students and teachers many hours because it gathers together excerpts from ancient and modern writers to expand the points at which readers might connect to this immortal epic.-Patricia D. Lothrop, St. George's School, Newport, RI (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Morrison (Centre College, KY) offers a guide to Homer's Odyssey to assist first-time readers--including fairly young ones--and instructors not familiar with the classics. Included are sensible introductory accounts of the Trojan War cycle, the nature of oral composition, the distinctive artistry of the epic narrative, Homer's value system, and the historical background of his epics. But the author devotes the bulk of the companion to a book-by-book commentary, ranging from three to eight pages per book, with commendable special attention to three unifying themes: homecoming, hospitality, and identity. The author's forte is perceptive, meat-and-potatoes literary criticism, somewhat in the manner of that offered by E.T. Owen in his wonderful Story of the Iliad (1946). Six appendixes provide a roster of characters; remarks on the influence of Odysseus and the Odyssey in art, literature, and cinema; references to further reading (in both printed and online media); and suggestions for classroom activities and projects. The last makes the book valuable for teachers, provided they can tolerate a sometimes breezy colloquial idiom ("what's up with all that?"; "let's not get hung up"; "freaky!"; "you know the drill") designed to appeal to a youthful readership. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Junior high school, high school, and undergraduate college readers and their instructors; general audiences. J. P. Holoka Eastern Michigan University

Table of Contents

The Odyssey as Literature
Homeric Values
Homer and History Homer's Odyssey
Appendix 1 Who's Who? Character Index with Pronunciation
Appendix 2 Odysseus and the Odyssey After Homer: The European and American Tradition
Appendix 3 Activities, Classroom Projects, and More
Appendix 4 Further Reading
Appendix 5 The Odyssey and Odyssean Themes in the Movies
Appendix 6 Homer On-Line