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Conversations & Cocktails: "The Hidden Dimensions of Greek Heroes and Myth" with Justin Arft

While Greek mythology still captures our attention and invites constant reinvention, there are “hidden” dimensions to these stories that are not apparent when we just read them in translation, namely their ancient performance as oral, verbal art and Greek culture’s engagement with heroes in cult. This Conversations & Cocktails will introduce you to how mythology was performed in the ancient world and how the Greeks envisioned their heroes as powerful, troubled figures from a doomed era of mortals but ones who also survived as powerful, sometimes helpful figures in cult practice. The heroes of myth were defined by their ability to suffer and cause suffering, making the performances of their stories opportunities for reflection on culture, meaning, and mortality. For the Greeks, performance of myth was a communal way to remember a past alien to their own experience, but one still useful for defining and differentiating their own culture.

Join us online for this free public talk. Register for the Zoom link here.


About the Speaker:

Justin Arft is an associate professor of Classical Studies at UT whose main research focus is on ancient Greek poetry and comparative oral epic. Arft has authored articles on the technical dimensions of Homeric poetry with an eye to comparative examples of how other cultures perform oral epic, and his recent book, Arete and the Odyssey’s Poetics of Interrogation (Oxford 2022), applies interdisciplinary methods to address a long-standing problem in Homeric studies, namely the role of Arete, the Phaeacian queen, in the Odyssey. By analyzing an Indo-European interrogation formula seen across many bodies of literature and in Greek funerary texts, Arft argues that Arete serves as a gatekeeper for Odysseus’ journey and the epic’s own quest to define him as a hero of homecoming. His future projects will focus on the broader role of Greek heroes in ancient epic and how the Greeks used marginalized and non-heroic characters in these stories to critique them.


About the Series

Conversations & Cocktails is a free online public lecture series hosted by the UT Humanities Center, which showcases the original research of our distinguished University of Tennessee arts and humanities faculty. Our monthly talks give you the opportunity to hear about fascinating and groundbreaking work in the arts and in fields such as philosophy, history, and literary studies. Presentations are 30-40 minutes long and are designed for the general public. A spirited question-and-answer discussion follows each presentation. 

Dial-In Information

Register here for the Zoom link.

Thursday, November 30, 2023 at 7:00pm

Virtual Event