Emeritus Professor Richard Whitaker, translator, writer, Department of Classical Studies, UCT

Homer’s epic poem, the Odyssey, has been read and translated for two and a half thousand years. This course aims to explain why. Using a new translation of the Odyssey, the course will introduce the poem and examine its major themes, characters and setting. The Odyssey is partly set in a real landscape, the Greek island of Ithaca: images will show how closely epic and geographical reality coincide. The course will compare passages by famous English translators through the centuries, to show that every translation is in fact an interpretation. Professor Whitaker will explain the choices that shaped his own southern African flavoured translation. Over the millennia, the Odyssey has influenced painting, opera, sculpture, poetry, the novel and film. Concluding lectures will sample this heritage, looking at reinterpretations by writers such as Dante, James Joyce, Derek Walcott and Margaret Atwood; and visual artists from Pintoricchio to the Coen brothers.



1. Introduction to Homer’s Odyssey

2. The Odyssey and the landscape of Ithaca

3. The Odyssey and its English translators

4. The afterlife of the Odyssey in literature and the visual arts: Part 1

5. The afterlife of the Odyssey in literature and the visual arts: Part 2


Recommended reading

Hall, E. 2012. The Return of Ulysses: A Cultural History of Homer’s Odyssey. London: I.B. Tauris.

Stanford, W.B. 2018. The Ulysses Theme. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Whitaker, R. 2017. The Odyssey of Homer: A Southern African Translation. Cape Town: African Sun Press.



Date: 21– 25 January 
Time: 11.15 am
COURSE FEES Full: R550,00  Staff and Students R275,00
Venue: LT2 Kramer Law Building UCT