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'The Iliad by Moonlight,' a Marathon Reading May 23/24

Celebrate the epic Greek poem with an out-of-doors recitation from 10 p.m. to dawn

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May 22, 2014 | by Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- More than 80 students and faculty at Northwestern University will take part in an all-night, outdoor reading of the ancient Greek epic poem, The Iliad, on Friday, May 23, beginning at 10 p.m. along Lake Michigan and continuing until dawn Saturday, May 24. Another 50 spectators are expected.

“The Iliad by Moonlight” event is inspired by “The Readers of Homer,” a group that organizes marathon readings of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” worldwide, according to “Iliad by Moonlight” organizer and Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences faculty member Francesca Tataranni.

The event will kick off with a 6 to 7:30 p.m. presentation, “The Iliad: Across Time, Translation and Imagination,” on the themes of the Iliad and related topics. This free and public presentation will include readings of the Iliad in Italian, Spanish, French, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, Polish and Russian and take place in Room 107 at Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, on Northwestern’s Evanston campus. A reception will follow.

Iliad readers -- undergrads, graduate students and faculty from across Northwestern’s campus -- will gather around the firepit in the Lakefill of the Evanston campus for the free and public reading along the shore of Lake Michigan from 10 p.m. until daybreak. Participants and spectators are encouraged to bring their own blankets, lawn chairs and snacks.

“We’re trying to recreate the treatment the Iliad would have had in its original performative tradition,” says Tataranni, who teaches classics and directs Northwestern’s Latin program. “Epic poetry was meant to be read aloud, and the ancient Greeks recited poetry in public spaces. The ‘rhapsodes’ would memorize and deliver their poems orally.”

Tataranni and her students spent several months editing the Iliad so that the reading could take place within seven or eight hours. She assigned passages a number and randomly assigned readers a selected passage.  

“We want to bring attention to the humanities in general,” Tataranni says. “It’s an opportunity to think about a text written long ago and filled with themes of war, peace, honor, justice, revenge, compassion and the desire for eternal life through fame. The Iliad elicits very contemporary emotions and experiencing those emotions in a group should prove interesting.”

Electric candles will be placed in paper bags along the lakefront to create the illusion of fire. Presented by the Department of Classics and the Graduate Classics Cluster, the “Iliad by Moonlight” is made possible through the generosity of the Alumnae of Northwestern University. 

Topics: Campus Life