The Spouter-Inn

15. The Odyssey.

“To outwit you 
in all your tricks, a person or a god 
would need to be an expert at deceit. 
You clever rascal! So duplicitous, 
so talented at lying! You love fiction 
and tricks so deeply, you refuse to stop 
even in your own land. Yes, both of us 
are smart. No man can plan and talk like you, 
and I am known among the gods for insight 
and craftiness. You failed to recognize me:             
I am Athena, child of Zeus. I always 
stand near you and take care of you, in all 
your hardships.”
(13.291–303)

Homer’s Odyssey tells us of a complicated man, Odysseus, who spent ten years away from his family during the Trojan War (for more details, read The Iliad) and spends another ten years trying to get home to his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. But the Gods intervene, and Odysseus and his men get bounced from one marvellous island to another. Meanwhile, a gaggle of suitors are insisting that Odysseus has been gone so long he must be dead, and they’re going to keep bothering Penelope until she picks one of them to marry. When Odysseus finally gets home, he and Telemachus devise a brutal plan to solve the situation.

Suzanne and Chris have a conversation about how the poem depicts cleverness, home, manliness, and water—and what about it has inspired so many adaptations.

Show Notes.

The Odyssey, in a recent translation by Emily Wilson.

Wilson offers a pronunciation guide to several of the characters on her website.

Wilson has been interviewed by the Los Angeles Review of Books and the New York Times Magazine about her translation.

Suzanne was a guest on This Is Your Mixtape.

We made some ridiculous t-shirts based on The Tempest.

We talked a little about Tiresias in our episode on The Metamorphoses.

James Joyce’s Ulysses.

Dear Reader on Madeline Miller’s Circe and Margaret Atwood’s Penelopiad.

Derek Walcott’s Omeros.

Vergil’s Aeneid.

Percy Jackson’s The Lightning Thief.

Our episode on Dante’s Inferno.

Lucian of Samosata’s A True Story.

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14b. Bonus: Steve Mentz on The Tempest.

What I’m trying to think about is what the history of our planet looks like from an oceanic rather than a terrestrial perspective. What does The Tempest look like if we think about The Tempest from the perspective of the water? How does that enable us to rethink literary questions, aesthetic questions, environmental questions?

You don’t want to go too deep into thinking about the ocean without Steve Mentz as your guide, especially when you’re looking at Shakespeare’s oceans. Steve is a professor of English at St John’s University in New York City and the author and editor of many books on early modern literature, eco-poetics, and blue/oceanic humanities, including At the Bottom of Shakespeare’s Ocean, Shipwreck Modernity, the essay collection Oceanic New York, and most recently, Break Up the Anthropocene. His biography of the Ocean will be coming out next year as part of Bloomsbury’s delightful Object Lesson series. Suzanne and Chris talk with him about The Tempest, about swimming in the Atlantic, and about what happens when you consider the ocean’s perspective.

Show Notes.

Steve Mentz on Twitter and his website.

The wreck of the Sea Venture.

Aimé Césaire: A Tempest. (Some excerpts.)

Kamau Brathwaite: Caliban.

Édouard Glissant: Collected Poems.

Chantal Zabus’s Tempests after Shakespeare has many more examples of Tempest rewritings.

Medea’s speech from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (about halfway down the page: “O trustie time of night…”) is one of the scenes we didn’t discuss in episode 3.

Vija Celmins’s ocean drawings.

An Everywhere of Silver.

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14. The Tempest.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
(3.2.148–56)

The Tempest is one of William Shakespeare’s last plays—and one of his most curious. Prospero, former Duke of Milan, was exiled with his daughter Miranda twelve years ago, but now an opportunity arises for him to restore his place on the throne. Chris and Suzanne explore this magical and musical island where time and place follow a dream-logic (or theatre-logic?).

Show Notes.

William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. [An online edition; free audiobook at Librivox.]

How We Read, an essay collection edited by Suzanne and Kaitlin Heller and designed by Chris, is available for purchase (or free PDF download!) from punctum books.

The Encyclopedic Genius of Melville’s Masterpiece: On Moby Dick as a Way of Seeing the World, Suzanne’s essay for Melville’s 200th birthday, on LitHub.

Update: We’ve been reliably informed that The Comedy of Errors also happens, so to speak, in real time.

Paul Mazursky’s Tempest (1982), with John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands.

A review of the performance of The Tempest with Patrick Stewart that Chris saw (a long time ago).

Julie Taymor’s The Tempest, with Helen Mirren as Prospera.

Ian McKellen as Prospero in an audiobook version of The Tempest.

Caliban Never Belonged to Shakespeare: What Shakespeare’s “Thing of Darkness” Tells Us About Gatekeeping and Language, a beautiful essay by Marcos Gonsalez.

Support The Spouter-Inn on Patreon and chat with us about books on our members-only Slack!

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13. To the Lighthouse.

It was necessary now to carry everything a step further. With her foot on the threshold she waited a moment longer in a scene which was vanishing even as she looked, and then, as she moved and took Minta's arm and left the room, it changed, it shaped itself differently; it had become, she knew, giving one last look at it over her shoulder, already the past.

Our Water/Ocean cluster begins with Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse. This curious novel describes two days (separated by ten dramatic years) in the life of the Ramsay family as they stay at their holiday home in the Scottish Hebrides with their assorted friends and hangers-on. But the novel does not concoct a wild plot; instead, it examines how the characters observe each other’s internal and emotional states. Chris and Suzanne explore the way Woolf and her characters try to capture not only the endless flow of time, but also those moments when people are configured just so and time seems to stand still.

Show Notes.

Virginia Woolf: To the Lighthouse. [In some countries, the text and an audiobook are now public domain.]

Margaret Atwood on reading To the Lighthouse as a teen, and again as an adult.

Vanessa Bell’s art.

Vanessa Bell’s dust jacket design for the first edition of To the Lighthouse.

The Hogarth Press.

The Bloomsbury Group.

Next episode: William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. [An online edition; free audiobook at Librivox.]

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12b. Bonus: Damian Fleming on Moby-Dick.

I have been heard to say that there’s two types of people in the world: People who love Moby-Dick, and people who have never read Moby-Dick. [At] the same time, I never recommend anyone read Moby-Dick directly, because I feel like if you’re not reading it at your own leisure and come to it willingly, it could be really, really annoying.

Medievalist and Moby-Dick fan Damian Fleming joins us to keep the conversation going about this great book. We discuss our favourite passages, how Ishmael represents his labours, how we feel about whaling and cetology, how potentially gross strawberries are, and all the humour in the novel and what’s been done with the novel.

Show Notes.

Damian is a brilliant presence on Twitter.

@MobyDickatSea is also brilliant on Twitter.

The Moby-Dick Big Read. Damian recommends chapter 3, The Spouter-Inn, read by Nigel Williams.

Ron Swanson on Moby-Dick.

John Donne: To His Mistress Going to Bed.

The Time I Spent on a Commercial Whaling Ship Totally Changed My Perspective of the World.

Rockwell Kent’s illustrations for Moby-Dick.

Support The Spouter-Inn on Patreon and you can join us on a members-only Slack where we will happily keep chatting with you about Moby-Dick.

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