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Expanding Eyes: A Visionary Education

Expanding Eyes: A Visionary Education

By Michael Dolzani
This podcast is aimed at a non-specialist audience interested in acquiring what Northrop Frye called, in the title of one of his books, an educated imagination. Its materials are drawn from the many courses in literature and mythology that I taught, combined with material from my book The Productions of Time, for which I hope the podcast may provide an accessible introduction, with concrete examples.
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Episode 65: Milton’s Complex Cosmos and Its “Many Worlds.” Satan Deceives the Angel of the Sun, Lands on Earth, and Addresses the Sun in a Soliloquy Revealing His Inwardly Tormented State.
Milton’s complex cosmos, his knowledge of the “many worlds” of modern Galilean astronomy. Satan lands on the sun and deceives Uriel, the angel of the sun, travels to Earth and the Garden of Eden, where he looks up at the sun from which he has just descended and, thinking himself alone and unseen, launches into a soliloquy that shows that the titanic rebel of the first two books was just a pose. In actuality, he knows he is wrong, and is consumed with nihilistic despair. The opening lines may be the first part of the poem to be composed.
37:39
June 26, 2022
Ep, 64: Milton’s Attempted Liberalization of the Christian Doctrines of Predestination and the Atonement. Then a Moment of Satire: The Limbo of Vanities or Paradise of Fools.
Despite the frequent prejudice against Milton, his view of the difficult problems of Christian theology were more liberal than all but a few people in his time, perhaps any time. He revises the doctrine of predestination to mean that God gives sufficient grace to all to be saved, and only then puts the burden on us of using our free will to choose. He revises the view of the Atonement, the sacrifice of the Son to the Father to atone for human sin, by saying that at the end of time God will put by his ruling sceptre and be “all in all,” a view that may possibly hint at the full identity of the human and the divine, on the level of the spiritual rather than the ordinary self.
39:27
June 19, 2022
Ep. 63: God’s Foreknowing Speech in Book 3 of Paradise Lost. The Most Difficult Issue in Christianity: the Conflict between Human Free Will and Predestination.
God’s speech from his throne in Book 3 lays out the most difficult problem in Christian theology, the conflict between human free will and the doctrine, stated by Paul in Romans 8-9, that God predestines every human being either to salvation or damnation before we are even born. The Father pronounces humanity guilt, “Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall,” but how can that be reconciled with the idea that we are saved only by God’s grace, which he withholds from some for reasons no one knows? Milton’s daring liberalization of predestination, in which everyone is given sufficient grace, even if some are given extra. Also, the problem of how Satan, Adam, and Eve ever chose evil if he created them perfect. And finally, the issue of why atonement is necessary if God is love—why does God demand a human sacrifice?
37:57
June 12, 2022
Ep. 62: The Satiric Episode of Satan’s Family Reunion with Sin and Death. Satan’s Wild Journey through Chaos. The Beautiful and Moving Personal Invocation that Opens Book 3.
The bizarre, satiric reunion of Satan with his daughter, Sin, and their offspring, Death, a parody of the Trinity, among other things. The shift of style to allegory for satiric purposes. Satan’s journey through Chaos on his way to earth. Chaos as “the deep” of Genesis 1, but also the Chaos of the Creation myths of Hesiod, Ovid, and Lucretius. The surreal picture of an undignified Satan having to fly, creep, swim, as Chaos turns moment by moment from solid to liquid to gas. The moving personal invocation to God as an inward light at the opening of Book 3, compensating for the painful solitude of Milton’s blindness. One of the most beautiful parts of the poem.
36:39
June 05, 2022
Ep. 61: The Debate of the Devils in Hell. Satan’s Departure for Earth. The Devils Attempts to Pass the Time in Hell. Satan Encounters Sin and Death at the Gates of Hell.
Milton’s analysis of why revolutions fail: what Blake called the “mind forg’d manacles” that imprison the would-be revolutionaries within. Moloch, Belial, and Mammon represent various false attitudes that subvert any revolution, good or bad—as they did in the French Revolution in the Romantic period, as they did in the Sixties. The devils’ attempt to pass the time while Satan goes on his spying expedition: the various ways people try to distract themselves from their sense of life’s meaningless futility.
37:04
May 30, 2022
Ep. 60: The Catalogue of Devils as the Pagan Deities. The Building of Pandaemonium, Palace of the Devils. The Role of the Reader of Paradise Lost.
The incantatory epic catalogue of pagan deities that the Devils will later become in human history. The discovery of gold by Mammon, and the building of Pandaemonium, the palace of the Devils, by Mulciber. The deceptively beautiful story of Mulciber’s fall, suddenly revealed as a lie. Milton’s demand for active interpretation, the responsibility of the reader of Paradise Lost.
36:13
May 22, 2022
Ep. 59: Paradise Lost, Book 1. Satan and the Rebel Angels in Hell after the War in Heaven. The Dramatic Intensity of Paradise Lost. Satan’s Powerful Speeches of Defiance.
The epic plunges in medias res, into the middle of things, and begins in the aftermath of the war in heaven. Satan and the rebel angels lie stunned on a burning lake in hell. Satan rouses his second-in-command, Beelzebub, and delivers two famous speeches of great dramatic power. Paradise Lost was originally conceived as a drama, and retains many dramatic features. Satan has been a strangely attractive figure to many intelligent readers, including famous ones like Blake and Shelley. Why is this so in an epic that wants to justify the ways of God to men?
36:28
May 15, 2022
Ep. 58: Paradise Lost: the Famous Opening Invocation. The Meaning of “Things Unattempted Yet.” The Actual Order of Events in the Epic, Recounted Out of Order in the Poem.
Milton’s extraordinary achievement, writing his epic at the end of his life when he was old and blind, the Puritan revolution defeated. His choice of a Biblical rather than Arthurian subject. The famous Invocation, invoking a Muse that is really a symbol for divine inspiration. The real chronology of the poem’s events, though they are recounted out of order. The beginning “in the middle of things” in Book 1, with Satan and the rebel angels in hell just after their defeat in the war in heaven.
38:36
May 08, 2022
Ep. 57: Prelude to Paradise Lost. The Rewards of Reading Milton: the Musicality of the Verse, the Encyclopedic Vision, the Revolutionary Point of View
The rewards of reading Milton with or without a religious commitment. The magnificence of verse informed by a sophisticated knowledge of music. Milton’s sense of a total vision in which the Bible, Classical mythology and literature, and other writers, from Plato to Shakespeare, form an interconnected whole, what Northrop Frye calls the order of words. You can get a whole humanistic education from studying Milton. Milton’s revolutionary values in religion, politics, and the domestic realm. God as an Inner Light or inward presence, a main source of the later Romantic theory of the imagination. Milton’s part in the English Civil War in the cause of liberty, a forerunner of the democratic revolutions of the Romantic era. Milton’s attempt to liberalize as far as the Bible permitted the relationship between men and women, including his argument for the freedom of divorce. Milton’s great prose work Areopagitica, an argument in favor of freedom of thought and expression.
38:35
May 01, 2022
Ep. 56: Book 24, the Meeting of Priam and Achilles. Achilles’ New and Unexpected Humanity and Compassion, His True Moment of Greatness
Achilles still grieves for Patroclus while the gods debate on Olympus. Zeus sends Iris down to arrange for Priam to go to Achilles and collect his son’s body. The tough, irascible Priam and his equally tough wife, Hecuba. Hermes, in disguise, conducts Priam to Achilles’ tent. Priam’s heart-rending speech, which stirs a new and unexpected compassion in Achilles. The mystery of Achilles’ new humanity. The parable of the two jars of Zeus. The return of the body, and the speeches of three women: Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen. The final line of the poem given to the noble Hector.
36:48
April 25, 2022
Ep. 55: The Final Showdown. Hector Runs, but Finally Faces Achilles and Is Mortally Wounded.
The building suspense between book 18, when Achilles learns of the death of Patroclus, and book 22, in which Achilles and Hector engage in the final showdown. Achilles is lured off the battlefield to give the two armies time to clear the field, the Trojans going back inside their walls. All of Troy begs Hector to come inside, but the heroic code demands that he refuse. But he panics, and runs from Achilles three times around the wall of Troy. What do we think of this? Even if we do not subscribe to the heroic code, do we think less of Hector for running? Reasons why perhaps we should not. The final showdown and Hector’s mortal wound.
37:41
April 17, 2022
Ep. 54: The Workshop of Hephaestus and the Shield of Achilles with Its Intricate Design. Achilles Prepares for Battle. Briseis Mourns Patroclus. Achilles’ Horse Prophesies His Death.
Achilles goes to the ramparts and cries his chilling war cry three times to scare off the Trojans, so that the Achaeans get Patroclus’s body back—but minus Achilles’ armor that Patroclus had been wearing. Hector refuses to retreat, a refusal he will live long enough to regret. Thetis goes to the wondrous workshop of Hephaestus on Mt. Olympus to get armor for her son. The elaborate ekphrasis, or description of a work of art inside another work of art, detailing the scenes on the shield of Achilles. What is the artistic purpose of this description, which interrupts the narrative. The Olympian perspective of art.
37:43
April 10, 2022
Ep. 53: Patroclus in Achilles’ Armor Goes into Battle and Is Killed by Hector. The Fight for the Body. The Death of Sarpedon and the Famous Speech of Zeus about Fate. Achilles’ Grief.
Patroclus begs Achilles to let him go into battle wearing Achilles’ armor so that the Trojans will panic, thinking it is Achilles. Achilles does so on the condition that Patroclus not try to take Troy on his own or go up against Hector. He disobeys and is killed by Hector. Zeus ponders whether to go against fate and save his son Sarpedon, but gives in and Sarpedon also dies. Antilochus breaks the news of Patroclus’ death to Achilles, whose weeping brings his mother Thetis from the ocean with her sea nymphs. She goes to Mt. Olympus to get new armor from Hephaestus for her son.
34:53
April 03, 2022
Ep. 52: The Horrors of War and the Value of the Heroic Code. Hera Seduces Zeus to Distract Him. The Trojans Breach the Ramparts and Try to Set Fire to the Ships.
Sarpedon’s famous speech to Glaucus in Book 12 affirming the heroic code of fighting for “glory” because no one escapes death. Is there anything we can still admire in the heroic code?  The spirit of competition and striving for excellence and self-transcendence. The need for a “moral equivalent of war.” Hera seduces Zeus in Book 14 to distract him, but the Trojans eventually breach the ramparts and try to set fire to the ships, which are defended single-handedly by giant Ajax.
35:56
March 27, 2022
Ep. 51: The Embassy to Achilles in Book 9. The Psychology of Achilles and His Refusal to Return to Battle. Books 10 and 11: The Spying Expedition and Major Achaean Players Taken Out with Injuries.
Book 9 is a crucial moment in the Iliad. Consisting of nothing but talk, it is nevertheless the turning point towards inevitable fatality, as Achilles refuses to return to battle. The speeches in which he refuses are fascinating but difficult, because he seems to be doubting the value of the heroic code by which he has lived his entire life. With no help forthcoming from their greatest warrior, the Achaeans try to figure out their options. While it is still night, Odysseus and Diomedes go on a spying expedition to the Trojan camp. They encounter the unlucky Trojan counter-spy Dolon and kill him. In book 11, the Achaeans suffer yet another setback as three of their main warriors, Agamemnon, Diomedes, and Odysseus, are taken out of the battle with minor injuries.
37:47
March 20, 2022
Ep. 50: The Tide of Battle Turns. The Achaeans Driven Back to Their Own Defensive Walls. A Second Assembly Called to Deal with This Emergency.
Zeus begins fulfilling his promise to Thetis to make the Achaeans lose. Giant Ajax helps prevent a complete rout, fighting a battle with Hector. Anachronisms in the text show the changing methods of warfare between the time of the Trojan War and Homer’s own time. Zeus warns the other deities not to interfere: the famous simile of the golden chain. Three times he curbs the attempt of Diomedes, who is experiencing his moment of aristeia, or self-transcending excellence, to take Troy directly. Night falls at the end of Book 8. The late-night emergency assembly of Book 9, in which Agamemnon promises a catalogue of gifts if Achilles will return to the battle.
37:52
March 13, 2022
Episode 49: The Complex and Enigmatic Characterization of Paris and Helen in Book 6; the Character of Big Ajax in Book 7, Dueling with Hector; Paris’s Refusal to Return Helen to the Achaeans.
The difficulty, perhaps the impossibility, of judging Paris and Helen, in Book 6 and elsewhere. Are they selfish and manipulative, self-deluding—or genuinely compelled by the will of the gods and fate? They seem as contradictory and enigmatic as people often do in real life. In Book 7, Big Ajax (contrasted with Little Ajax), a major figure in the Iliad, fights a duel with Hector, but inconclusively. Paris refuses to give Helen back to the Achaeans.
36:26
March 06, 2022
Ep. 48: Diomedes, the Noble Alternative to Achilles. Hector with His Wife Andromache and Their Son Astyanax, a Loving Family.
Zeus procrastinates fulfilling his promise to make the Greeks temporarily lose, and due to the leadership of Diomedes the Trojans are driven back against their own walls and are in danger of losing the war. Diomedes, the quiet team player, a contrast to the difficult Achilles. Hector comes inside the walls of Troy, and, as he is leaving meets his wife Andromache and their small son. Andromache begs Hector to stay, but Hector shows himself trapped by the demands of the heroic code. And the audience knows that adherence to the code will eventually kill him and doom his family and the whole city.
36:31
February 26, 2022
Ep. 47: The Contest between Paris and Menelaus; the Complex Character of Helen of Troy
Hand to hand combat between Paris and Menelaus to settle the issue of who gets Helen. Paris, the beautiful lover who wears a leopard skin, is badly outmatched but rescued by Aphrodite, who orders Helen to join him in the bedroom and threatens her when Helen tries to refuse. The mystery of Helen’s character, complex, ambiguous. Another complex question: the role of the gods in the Iliad. Sometimes they can be taken non-literally as symbols of inner psychological forces and conflicts.
35:60
February 21, 2022
Ep. 46: The Heroic Code of Honor and the Result of the Quarrel between Agamemnon and Achilles, Spreading All the Way to Mt. Olympus
The society of the Iliad as an example of what some social scientists have called a “shame culture,” in which men are driven by the need for status in a peer group. Failing to achieve it, they are “shamed.” We are ostensibly a “guilt culture,” driven by individual conscience rather than outward social pressure, but in fact there are many similar tendencies in our culture. The rage of Achilles spreads all the way to Mt. Olympus and results in a quarrel between Zeus and Hera, defused buy Hephaestus, the smith of the gods and a fascinating anomalous deity.
36:39
February 13, 2022
Ep. 44: The Iliad, Book 1. The Rage of Achilles, and the Heroic Code of Honor That Leads to Tragic Conflict
The explosively dramatic opening of the Iliad, starting with its first word, “Rage!” Two men fighting over a woman, who is a “war prize.” And yet, according to what scholars call the heroic code of honor, neither man can back down, for fear of public shame, for fear of looking weak. Being “reasonable” is not permitted by their culture’s value system, and that is the tragedy.
37:45
February 06, 2022
Ep. 44: Introduction to Homer’s Iliad. What Is Still Relevant about the Iliad. The Many Mysteries Surrounding the Poem and the Poet.
What is still relevant about the Iliad today: the rich, complex characterization and the theme of anger, revenge, and justice. The many mysteries: Was there a “Homer”? Was there a Trojan War? The real Troy, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann. The plot background: Helen of Troy.
38:06
January 30, 2022
Ep. 43: The Climactic Episodes of Virgil’s Aeneid: The Showdown between Turnus and Aeneas
Diomedes’ speech admitting that the Trojan War had been wrong. The tragedy of Camilla, the great woman warrior. The suicide of Queen Amata. Jupiter forbids Juno and Turnus’s sister Juturna from interfering further. The final showdown between Turnus and Aeneas.  Turnus, wounded, begs for mercy—but Aeneas sees the belt of young Pallas, worn by Turnus as a war prize, and in the last four lines of the epic kills Turnus in a fit of blind rage.
35:53
January 23, 2022
Ep. 42: The Hope of Breaking the Ironic Cycle of History. But the Price Paid for that Achievement.
The theme of the Aeneid, explicitly announced in crucial passages, is the hope of escaping from history as an ironic cycle, the hope that the tragedy of the fall of Troy does not have to become the model for all of human history. Virgil hoped that Augustus could establish not just a more just society but one that would bring justice and civilization to the whole world, that history might become progressive. But he does not minimize the cost, and focuses upon the deaths of a number of innocent, idealistic young men as representing the price to be paid. The two friends Nisus and Euryalus die together, young Pallas goes up against Turnus and is killed, Mezentius’ son Lausus is killed by Aeneas in an attempt to rescue his father. Turnus is a complex figure. His arrogance and hot-headedness result in his being trapped alone in the Trojan fort, yet along with his male pride is a real grievance against the Trojans, who we remember did bring the Trojan War upon themselves in the past.
36:06
January 16, 2022
Ep. 41: The Aeneid’s Complex Vision: The Wish for a Just War and a Just Peace Versus the Tragic Realities.
Aeneas is in one way an imperialist, establishing his people in a foreign land despite the resistance of its native peoples. Yet he longs for a just war and a just peace, wishing that this conflict might be a war to end war, renouncing any intention of dominating the Italian peoples. Virgil clearly intends a parallel with Augustus, who conquered his own version of Turnus, Mark Antony, and wished to end decades of civil war and establish justice. But Virgil counterpoises this ideal against the reality of war, of the death especially of young men cut off in their prime, especially Pallas, the son of Evander, Aeneas’s ally. On the other side, a motley crew of revolutionaries, from the woman warrior Camilla to the psychotic sadist Mezentius.
36:22
January 09, 2022
Ep. 40: The New World, and Juno as the Spirit of Negation. Queen Amata and Turnus Possessed by the Fury Allecto.
Aeneas and the Sibyl leave the Underworld by the Gate of Ivory. The new world of Italy, and the native people there. Aeneas forms an alliance with King Latinus, to be sealed by marriage with Lavinia, but Juno sends the Fury Allecto to demonically possess Queen Amata and Turnus. Against the progressive vision of history that Anchises spoke of in the Underworld, Juno represents the vision of history as an ironic cycle, so that Aeneas is the new Paris, and the new Troy will suffer the same fate as the old.
36:57
January 02, 2022
Ep. 39: The Great Visionary System of Virgil’s Underworld in Book 6 of the Aeneid.
Aeneas meets with his father Anchises in Elysium in the Underworld. Anchises’s speech expands the Aeneid into a cosmic dimension, with a World Soul instead of a creator deity, a system of rewards for the good and punishments of evildoers, then reincarnation in this world. The mystery of where Virgil derived this imagery. Finally, a vision of Aeneas’s descendants, culminating in Augustus Caesar.
36:29
December 26, 2021
Ep.38: The Quest to Reach Italy. The Entrance to the Underworld and the Cumaean Sibyl.
The struggle to reach the goal. Funeral games for Anchises. The women set fire to the ships because they don’t want to go on. The death of Palinurus, “one life given for many.” The mysterious imagery of the entrance to the underworld, created by Daedalus. The Cumaean Sibyl, Aeneas’s guide, and the golden bough, talisman that Aeneas needs to take with him on his journey.
37:16
December 19, 2021
Ep. 37: The Tragic Love Affair of Dido and Aeneas. The Aeneid: Cyclical Pessimism vs. the Hopeful Vision of Possible Progress
The famous tragic love affair between the passionate, impulsive Dido and the restrained, disciplined, responsible Aeneas. Dido’s madness and suicide. The Aeneid’s greatness lies in its double vision: cyclical pessimism and progressive optimism held in creative tension.
38:26
December 12, 2021
Ep. 36: The Wanderings of Aeneas after the Fall of Troy
Aeneas loses his loving wife Creusa at the end of Book 2, and wanders with his people for seven years, comparable to the Wanderings of Odysseus, for the entirety of Book 3. His father Anchises dies at the end of Book 3.
37:22
December 05, 2021
Ep. 35: The Trojan Horse and the Fall of Troy
Aeneas, taken in by Queen Dido of Carthage, recounts his adventures, beginning with a vivid, book-length account of the fall of Troy.
35:40
November 28, 2021
Ep. 34: Virgil’s Aeneid and Its Providential Vision of History. Two Exiles: Aeneas and Dido, Queen of Carthage, and Their Tragic Destiny.
Jupiter’s long speech to Venus about the glorious destiny of the line descending from her son Aeneas, the future history of Rome. Aeneas and his people land and are taken in by Dido, Queen of Carthage, in what should be a happy ending—but which the audience knows will end in tragedy. The happy ending is for a future Rome, not for Aeneas personally, who knows only self-sacrifice and loss.
35:44
November 21, 2021
Ep. 33: The Opening and Book 1 of Virgil’s Aeneid: The Quest for a New Home
A new type of hero, “duty-bound” Aeneas, sacrificing himself for a higher cause, not merely for a future home for his people but for the cause of law, order, and higher civilization. The unique organization of the Aeneid through a series of parallels with Homer’s epics.
35:53
November 14, 2021
Ep. 32: Introduction to Virgil’s Aeneid: The Story Continues
Virgil’s life and career. The Aeneid influenced by Virgil’s experience of anarchy and civil war as the Roman Republic crumbles. The rise of Caesar Augustus, first Roman Emperor: the promise of law, order, and civilization. But at what cost? The “Virgilian melancholy.”
37:29
November 07, 2021
Ep. 31: The Controversy Over Book 24. Drawing It All Together: The Total Thematic Pattern of the Odyssey. Odysseus in Later Literature.
Is Book 24 by another, and inferior poet? Is there any artistic necessity for it? Is there a total thematic pattern to the Odyssey that draws together all the various themes we have been tracing? The fascinating character of Odysseus in later literature, up to our own time.
36:43
October 31, 2021
Ep. 30: The Bow Contest, the Showdown, and the Aftermath. Penelope’s Trick and the Reunion with Odysseus
The suitors’ self-humiliation, unable even to draw Odysseus’ bow. Odysseus shoots through 12 axe heads. The battle with the suitors and its aftermath. The hanging of the 12 treacherous maids, and the disposal of Melanthios. Penelope tricks Odysseus but proves he is really her husband. The joyful reunion.
31:18
October 24, 2021
Ep. 29: How Odysseus Got His Name: The Episode of the Scar. The Bow Contest.
The famous episode telling how Odysseus was given his significant name by his grandfather Autolycus, a thief. Setting up strategies ahead of time to even the odds against the suitors. The bow contest.
36:39
October 17, 2021
Ep. 28: The Reunion of Father and Son; Plotting and Disguises; Odysseus’s Old Dog Argos.
The moving and yet psychologically complex reunion of father and son in the hut of Eumaios. Devising strategies to make up for being greatly outnumbered. Odysseus meets his old dog Argos, a wonderful tearjerker in the midst of a heroic epic.
35:50
October 10, 2021
Ep. 27: Athena’s Regard for Odysseus as Trickster and Liar; the Working-Class Hero Eumaios the Swineherd; Telemachus Returns to Ithaca.
Athena, in a famous scene, puts Odysseus on a level of equality with herself—as storyteller, liar, trickster. The power of stories that shape people’s view of reality. Eumaios the swineherd as a genuinely good man of lower-class origins. The return of Telemachus to Ithaca.
35:41
October 03, 2021
Ep. 26: Odysseus Returns to Ithaca, the Halfway Point of the Odyssey
The Wanderings, Books 9-12, suggest an underlying pattern of symbolic death to an old identity and birth of a new, often at a point of crisis in mid-life, as is true of both Odysseus and Dante in the Divine Comedy. For Odysseus, this involves a coming to terms with the feminine, portrayed by a remarkable spectrum of female figures ranging from the ideal to the ambiguous to the evil. The landing on Ithaca: the sense of a nexus of realities, of Odysseus crossing from the mythlike, dreamlike world of the Wanderings to the realistic world of his home island.
35:37
September 26, 2021
Ep. 25: The Mythical Patterns of the Odyssey
Possible mythical patterns of death and rebirth to a new identity underlying the Odyssey, especially in the Wanderings, patterns that are universally human and not limited to exceptional heroes.
38:30
September 19, 2021
Ep. 24: Homer’s Odyssey. The Wanderings, continued. Descent to Hades, the Land of the Dead.
A brief recap of the first six episodes of the Wanderings: the Kikones, the Lotus Eaters, the Cyclops, Aeolus (god of the winds), the Lestrygonians, Circe. The central episode of the Wanderings, the descent to Hades. Meetings with Elpenor, the seer Tiresias, Odysseus’ mother Antiklea, Agamemnon.
36:55
September 12, 2021
Ep. 23: The Wanderings, Books 9-12. The Kikones, the Lotus Eaters, the Cyclops.
For the four books of the Wanderings, Odysseus acts as his own bard and recounts retroactively his ten years of trial and adventure since the fall of Troy. Recurrent themes tie together these seemingly disparate episodes, including resistance to temptation, the virtue of active striving, and the contrast between civilization and savagery.
38:00
September 05, 2021
Ep. 22: The Big Party for Odysseus and the Songs of the Bard
The ideal society of the Phaiakians throws a party in honor of their guest, in which Odysseus outperforms the younger men, and the blind bard Demodokos sings three times, making Odysseus weep for the past.
36:41
August 29, 2021
Ep. 21: The High Comedy of the Odyssey: Odysseus and the Teenager, Nausikaa
Book 6, a wonderful comic interlude in which Odysseus, naked from the storm and wearing only an olive bush, has to befriend and get help from Nausikaa, the young princess of the Phaiakians.
35:09
August 22, 2021
Ep. 20: Calypso’s Paradisal Island. Odysseus’ Heroic Refusal of Immortality
Odysseus’ 7 years captive on Calypso’s island. Sexual politics in the Odyssey. Odysseus’ most heroic act: choosing life and its trials over immortality.
36:32
August 15, 2021
Ep. 19: Telemachus Visits Menelaus and Helen, and Learns about Marriage
Telemachus finds that there is more to becoming a man than being a warrior. The Odyssey is a peacetime epic, and during his visits to Nestor in Pylos and Menelaus and Helen in Lakedaimon that it is necessary to learn the skills of social interaction. He is also given a lesson on the complexities of marriage.
35:57
August 08, 2021
Ep. 18: Becoming a Man: Telemachus Confronts the Suitors
The psychology of masculinity. Manhood is not merely chronological, but has to be achieved. The suitors and the complicated question of the rules of succession to the kingship in Homeric times.
36:37
August 01, 2021
Ep. 17: Homer’s Odyssey, Book 1: Telemachus and His Coming of Age
The complex structure of the Odyssey. “Who has known his own engendering?” Telemachus’s troubled search for his own identity in relationship to his unknown parent, a timeless human dilemma.
37:43
July 25, 2021
Ep. 16: Introduction to Homer and the Odyssey
The fascinating mysteries of Troy and Homer. The Odyssey as a comic epic. Odysseus as Trickster, the polytropos, or man of many turnings.
38:35
July 18, 2021
Ep. 15: The Ending of the Divine Comedy: The Vision of God as “All in All”
A series of emblematic visions, each expanding beyond the limits of the last, culminating in Dante’s ultimate vision of God as the circumference of all things, binding the universe together in beautiful order and all-embracing love, whose symbol is the circle.
36:06
July 11, 2021
Ep. 14: Paradiso, Cantos 19-20: Predestination, the Hardest Christian Doctrine
In the sphere of Jupiter, Dante is lectured by the Eagle of Justice about predestination, the mystery of why God saves some people and damns others by giving or withholding his grace.
35:01
July 04, 2021
Ep. 13: Paradiso, Canto 1, continued. The ascent to the heavenly spheres.
Dante and Beatrice rise into the spiritual realm. Beatrice lectures Dante on the nature of that realm. Intellect and love as God’s twofold image in both nature and human nature.
36:15
June 27, 2021
Ep. 12: Purgatorio, Cantos 30-33: Reunion with Beatrice. Paradiso, Canto 1: Imagining the Experience of Heaven
Reunion in the Garden of Eden and Beatrice’s anger over Dante’s “infidelity.” Ways of imagining Heaven, an experience beyond time.
36:54
June 20, 2021
Ep. 11: The Purgatorio and the theme of reunion. The use and abuse of art. The achievement of true freedom.
The theme of reunion begins, as Dante meets his dead friend Casella. Casella, a musician, performs a poem by Dante that he has set to music, until they are interrupted by Cato, who tells them to stop wasting time. Art can be redemptive or escapist depending on how it is used. At the top of the mountain, Virgil tells Dante he has achieved the only true freedom, which is internal and disciplined, not a mere absence of external rules.
37:48
June 13, 2021
Ep. 10: Dante’s Purgatorio and the Hope of Self-Transformation
Recreation as the real promise of Christianity: we can change; we can be recreated through trial, an insight not dependent on literal belief in Christian doctrine. The role of education in the purgatorial or recreative process, and the role of the arts in education.
37:37
June 06, 2021
Ep. 9: Purgatorio, Canto 1: The Hope of a Purgatorial Life
Easter Sunday, 1300: the 7-story mountain of Purgatory, and image of the human hope of transformation through trial and suffering, whether in this life or the next.
36:04
May 30, 2021
Ep. 8: Inferno, Cantos 33 and 34: Satan and the Worst Sinners in History, the Betrayers
Why is betrayal the worst of all sins, far worse than murder? The psychological nature of evil, the rending of the bonds of human interconnection, the essence of damnation.
35:27
May 23, 2021
Ep. 7: Inferno, Canto 26: The Ulysses Canto. Forbidden Knowledge
The thrilling famous speech of Ulysses, questing for experience and knowledge. What is forbidden knowledge? Knowledge sought for selfish reasons, including power. The real forbidden knowledge is of our true motives, about which we lie not only to others but to ourselves.
34:26
May 16, 2021
Ep. 6: The Complexities of Love
Canto 5, continued: The tension between romantic and spiritual love in Dante. Canto 15: The mutual affection and respect between Dante and his former teacher (and father figure) Brunetto Latini, punished for homosexuality.
36:42
May 09, 2021
Ep. 5: The Nature of Evil. The Damnation of the Unbaptized
A psychological speculation on the motive for human evil that does not depend on religious commitment.The damnation of unbaptized infants and virtuous pagans: the acceptance of tragedy within the divine comedy.
36:14
May 02, 2021
Ep. 4: Romantic Love Continued, and the Vestibule of the Uncommitted
The problems of ideal romantic love, which we still wrestle with. The issue of commitment, of taking a stand, which we also still wrestle with.
38:18
April 25, 2021
Ep. 3: The Invention of Romantic Love
Canto 2 of The Divine Comedy, in which Dante, as reluctant as any hobbit, is induced by Virgil to embark upon his quest by speaking of Dante’s love Beatrice Portinari, a real woman, though loved according to the new conventions called Courtly Love, from which descend our ideas that romantic love can save you when nothing else can.
39:02
April 18, 2021
Ep 2: In the Dark Wood: Dante’s Mid-life Crisis and Ours
Canto 1 of The Divine Comedy: in mid-life, we suddenly realize we are “lost in the woods,” and no longer know “the way.”
34:48
April 11, 2021
Ep. 1: The Expanded Vision of the Imagination
Introduction to the “Expanding Eyes” podcast series and to its first subject, Dante’s Divine Comedy, completed exactly 700 years ago in 1321.
33:33
March 28, 2021