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Homeric Moments: Clues to Delight in Reading the Odyssey and the Iliad (326 pages, Paul Dry Books, 2002)

“Reading Homer’s poems is one of the purest, most inexhaustible pleasures life has to offer—a secret somewhat too well kept in our time. The aim of this book is to tell anyone who might care–first-time, second-time, or third-time readers or people who have not laid eyes on the epics–some of the causes and details of that delight.

Besides telling some of the delightful discoveries any well-disposed reader can make in the epics, I would like, really incidentally, to demonstrate a way of reading the epics that will, I think, make more such things reveal themselves. ‘A way of reading’ is not quite the same as what critics call ‘a reading,’ that is, a total interpretative hypothesis, but rather the aforementioned mood of trusting expectation, a receptivity to the poet’s signals, and a reliance on all our own life and learning.” (from the introduction)

Fifty years of reading Homer—both alone and with students—prepared Eva Brann to bring the Odyssey and the Iliad back to life for today’s readers. In Homeric Moments, she brilliantly conveys the unique delights of Homer’s epics as she focuses on the crucial scenes, or moments, that mark the high points of the narratives: Penelope and Odysseus, faithful wife and returning husband, sit face to face at their own hearth for the first time in twenty years; young Telemachus, with his father Odysseus at his side, boldly confronts the angry suitors; Achilles gives way to boundless grief at the death of his friend Patroclus.

Eva Brann demonstrates a way of reading Homer’s poems that yields up their hidden treasures. With an alert eye for Homer’s extraordinary visual effects and a keen ear for the musicality of his language, she helps the reader see the flickering campfires of the Greeks and hear the roar of the surf and the singing of nymphs. In Homeric Moments, Dr. Brann takes readers beneath the captivating surface of the poems to explore the inner connections and layers of meaning that have made the epics “the marvel of the ages.” (from the back cover)

This essay was originally published here in February 2013, and appears again in celebration of Dr. Brann’s ninetieth birthday. 

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