‘Odyssey’ reading draws diverse group of listeners
Story by Cassandra Coria
Photos by Ralph Freso
GCU News Bureau
Grand Canyon University’s campus was alive and thriving as it always is on a Friday morning, but there was something different happening on the grass near the doors to GCU Arena.
Dr. Jonathan Olson, an associate professor in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, was having students – including some from other colleges – rekindle a pre-pandemic event and join in a marathon reading of “The Odyssey” translation by Emily Wilson.
Wilson’s work, which came out about five years ago, was chosen because it is in iambic pentameter, which is more fast-paced.
“But it’s also, in many ways, more literal than the past translations of ‘The Odyssey,’” Olson said. “This is the first chance to have the marathon again. It has been two years in the making.”
The relaxed event dedicated to finishing one book was open to all.
“Distributing the reading labor across many readers, it’s easier to keep the momentum going,” Olson said. “This way, people can take breaks, grab lunch and come back.
“I’ve noticed in the last year, it’s easy for me to get distracted and lose concentration when I am reading. So I think if I was going to read this book on my own, it would take me a few weeks. Having it done all straight through, it’s like, ‘Oh wow, I effectively completed this.’”
Just as “The Odyssey” begins with an optimistic character ready for an adventure, the day began with cool weather before the sun peeked out and made the shade of the large ash tree a welcome defense.
“It was hard to anticipate today was going to be the hottest day of the year,” Olson said.
The solitude sometimes was interrupted by the sound of crackling leaves as people walked in and out of the area. However, it made it easier to interact with the novel.
Freshman Kalia Brewster, a business major, was a dedicated marathon attendee – she stayed from beginning to end. She is one of Olson’s students.
“I like how easy it is to understand and how the meaning isn’t necessarily in the intricate details of the words as much as it is in the story as a whole,” she said. “It’s really fun. I really like literature and I like reading. I’ve never read ‘The Odyssey,’ so I thought this would be a great opportunity to just get it done.”
Sophomore Karsten Brandsma, a biomedical engineering major, also kept coming back for more.
“I’m a science student and I don’t get much arts exposure, so I’d like to be more around it,” he said.
With the hustle and bustle of college life muffled, the listeners were immersed in the world of Odysseus’ surreal adventures.
“It’s not something I can describe,” Olson said. “It is something you have to experience.”