The Odyssey: Types of Interculturalism

I’ve been taking a class on Mythology at coursera.org. It’s a learning site of top universities offering online courses for free! I can even get a certificate at the end of a course if I successfully complete it. (If you are thinking about taking a coursera course beware, being at university level means studying and spending several hours a week on any given course).

The first 3 weeks were all about The Odyssey. A great Epic, so labelled because it’s universal and timeless in its themes. And because everyone can ascribe their own meaning to it, and can see elements they recognize.

To me The Odyssey is a journey into interculturalism. As I read Odysseus’ adventures I could’t help but recognize my own experiences with the people of the places I’ve visited.

In the Odyssey there are all the kinds of native and foreigner (‘the other’) that you might ever meet – from the hostile Cyclops Polyphemus’ kind who do not appreciate you being there at all and might throw you out’. The over-hospitable King of Phaeacians Alcinous (he give Odysseus so many gifts he was able restock his own kingdom!) kind who might give you the shirts of their back in order to be hospitable. Or the Circe and Calypso kind, the romantic reason for staying.

World map - Produced in Amsterdam

If you have ever moved country (state or neighborhood  you may have experienced the phenomenon of culture-shock and felt overwhelmed by the differences. If you have, then please, please, please, read The Odyssey. You might be surprised to find some tips and tricks on how to act in a different culture (perhaps being like Odysseus and lying your way around might not be the best idea, but bending the truth might help you out of awkward situations). And maybe, like me, you’ll encounter scenes  similar to your own experiences and adventures – your personal Odyssey.

Sofia

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9 thoughts on “The Odyssey: Types of Interculturalism

  1. I will be journeying into The Odyssey second semester with my freshmen. The interculturalism aspect is worthwhile to introduce, even some xenophobic ideas, as well. I usually focus on the epic hero, since they are in short supply these days. The wearing of spandex does not count for epic hero-ness.

    1. cricketmuse, that’s so cool! I never really got to read the Odyssey at school.
      Focus on the hero is really important, as you say they do seem to be in short supply, and spandex wearing men do not have the same epic hero-ness as Odysseus. Even though; and here I go out on a tangent, though you made me think of it; according to the Greeks, only men were heroes, though Homer manages to make Penelope just as cunning as Odysseus 😉

      1. Them Greeks were kinda macho in their outlook. Then again Athena was Odysseuss patron goddess instead of one the good old boys of the Olympus flock. Maybe Homer wanted everyone to know that one quality of a memorable epic hero was to be in touch with his feminine side. 🙂

        1. Good point! You could say from that perspective that perhaps his journey had more to do than just have adventures, Odysseus had to come in touch with his feminine side. It also givse a whole new twist to his dalliances with Circe and Calypso.

          1. Ha. That bad boy Odysseus did like to do his dancing with goddesses, didn’t he? My English teacher cohort explains that Odysseus would play Scrabble all night with Calypso, and cry for Penelope all day down by the seashore. He needed to get his priorities set.

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