Holy Cross Takes on Sirens and Cyclopes with Marathon Reading of the ‘Odyssey’

Reading served as fundraiser for local refugees

Twenty readers. Twelve hours. One epic.

This was the challenge accepted by the students and faculty who participated in a marathon reading of the ancient Greek classic the “Odyssey.” Reading in 30 minute intervals, each individual chipped away roughly 600 of the epic’s 12,110 lines between the hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on the Hogan Oval.

Mental and physical challenges aside, the wittily titled “Homerathon” put on by the classics department and Holy Cross’s chapter of Eta Sigma Phi also served as a fundraiser for Ascentria Care Alliance, a local organization devoted to immigrant and refugee resettlement.

“The concept of helping and welcoming displaced peoples is one which appears frequently in the ‘Odyssey,’ says Melody Wauke ’17, a classics major and the event organizer. “This fact, paired with the relevance of the refugee crisis, made the object of the fundraiser an obvious choice.”

Many walking through the heavily-trafficked area outside the campus center stopped to listen, learn about the cause, and donate. The event raised more than $350.

Readers included members of the “Intro to Greek” class of Mary Ebbott, professor of classics, and even Margaret Freije, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, who was one of the first to read in the early morning. The uncooperative weather, which transitioned to overcast and rain over the course of the day, made the feat an odyssey in and of itself.

“I won't say it was over before I knew it, but it was not a period of time I felt I had to endure,” says Christopher Dustin, professor of philosophy, department chair, and one of the marathon readers. “It was cold, and I began to lose feeling in my fingers. That I might drop the book was an added fear. And then my nose began to run (from the cold), and my eyes to water. But I thought, who am I to complain? Odysseus had it much rougher than this!”

Whether turning an ear toward the reading while on the way to class, or sitting for a period of time to listen while eating lunch, students could be heard trying to determine whether their favorite scenes — of Sirens or cyclopes — had been read yet.

“Doing this public reading, we’re getting back to the oral nature of it and how an ancient audience would have heard it (sung by) a bard,” Wauke was quoted saying in a Telegram & Gazette article covering the event.

Here and there, the epic’s lines became a humming backdrop for those passing or chatting nearby.

“It was strange to realize that, for a while at least, I was reading to...no one,” Dustin reflects. “But then I thought that maybe the gods were listening.”


Watch a timelapse of the marathon reading below:

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