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Lit Hum: The First Lecture

Please analyze the similarities between this Bearden work and the Illiad in the comments.

Please analyze the similarities between this Bearden work and the Iliad in the comments.

For our young NSOP-ers, the academic year has already begun. Intrepid Iliad-er and  Feisty Freshperson Garrett Donnelly gives us his report of the first Lit Hum lecture.

So we all walk into Roone Arledge Auditorium, each with our slightly dusty copies of The Iliad (thank God for the three-day weekend), to inaugurate our class’ entrance to Columbia’s academic life.

Let’s go freshmen.

The class was divided into two lectures (I say lectures, although each were only 20-30 minutes). The first was on “Homer and Harlem,” and focused on Harlem-based artist Romare Bearden and his paintings’ relationship with Homer’s texts. Bearden’s take on Homer’s works led the professor to place subtle hints that we are in Bearden’s position as we open our Iliad and begin our own journeys as artists. This is a theme I assume will become very Columbia. (Not to diminish the idea – it’s why we’re here, after all).

All this said, I only realized what the talk was about afterwards, and during it I kept thinking, “Wait, what? Bearden was so not in Sparknotes.” Then, of course, followed The Iliad talk itself.

Professor and Lit Hum chair Julie Crawford opened up the main lecture with a slew of intimidating PowerPoint slides filled with large passages from The Iliad. She covered several large themes with brief, in-depth looks at the passages and maintained that scholarly-but-casual attitude you just have to love.

A good amount of people brought their pen and paper and scribbled down key passages. Others watched as if at a movie. And the nappers, well…napped. The obligatory Q&A gave some lucky students the chance to understand more about the Iliad or—for that one guy whose question sounded remarkably like something out of The Iliad’s introduction—a chance to show off.

Regardless, both of the talks were introductions not only to The Iliad but to the quality of the scholarship and the professors here. Pretty cool and exciting for all of us newbies.

And yeah, let’s go freshmen.

“After Church” by Romare Bearden via Wikimedia

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4 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Here, I’ll give it a shot, but I’ll try to keep it short:
    The painting’s relationship with The Iliad is on the subject of special individuals. The Iliad is in every sense a story driven by the actions of individuals–the Trojan War starts because of Paris and Helen, and although many soldiers fight and die in it–after all, it lasted years–only the actions of a few heroes are worthy of mention. Agammemnon, Achilles, Priam, Hector, and company take center stage, and the rest of the soldiers are relegated to obscurity.

    In that sense, Homer and Bearden are on the same page. Only two figures (out of five) have faces, and so it is fair to assume that they are the heroes of this painting. Even more telling, they are directly engaging the viewer by looking directly out of the painting. This effect, observable in other paintings as well, directly engages the viewer and so captures his/her attention, much as Achilles’ using Hector’s corpse as a hood ornament (spoilers!) captures the reader’s attention. In this sense, Bearden is indicating that, from the faceless masses, a few individuals stand out in our collective and individual minds.

    It would be remiss to mention the similarities and not write about the differences. In Homer, all the heroes have an inherent trait that sets them apart from the masses to begin with: Agammemnon, for example, is a king, as is Odysseus. Achilles stands out even more so due to his near-invincibility. The men in Bearden’s painting, though, are dressed in rather everyday clothes. Nothing about them betrays any high position in society, or supernatural abilities. They are everymen put in the position of heroes, the faceless given a face and put center-stage. In this light, it appears that Bearden is making a statement about standout characters that directly contradicts Homer: whereas Homer’s standout characters are all of elevated rank (or at least related to people of elevated rank), Bearden’s heroes are completely normal human beings who are only special because they are noticed–anyone can be special, so long as they are noticed.

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous jesus christ i have no life

    2. major kudos says:

      @major kudos to you for completing said challenge. Bwog, a prize for this bright star?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous i like this kid

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