My reading list for this project is taking shape. The hardest part is deciding what to leave off. I plan to start with The Epic of Gilgamesh and follow that with Homer’s Odyssey. The library had a reading of Stephen Mitchell’s Gilgamesh on CD and I’ve just started listening as a preliminary to reading another translation of it. What a story! I find, though, that it requires a greater degree of concentration that I ordinarily have to summon up in my life these days. If I am to make good progress with these works, I’ll be applying more concentration than I have in a long time.
I’m not someone who retains what he reads very well and that is one of the main reasons I have started this journal. Summarizing the works, considering the questions they raise, developing an awareness of the cultural context, reflecting on my response…writing all this down should help with the retention and give me something to refer back upon as I proceed with the reading.
As mentioned earlier, this blog format is a convenience for myself and not aimed at an audience. Nothing would be nicer than to engage spirited discussions over the readings, but I have no delusions that such a thing will happen online. I retired a long-running blog last year, partly over the frustration that dialogues just didn’t get going. When I look around the web, I don’t see it happening anyhow, and while comments are welcome in case anyone stumbles upon this blog, I’m not holding my breath for scintillating give-and-take. So it goes.
For purposes of this one-year reading plan, I intend to go in chronological order and probably won’t get beyond the end of the 18th century (it might be overly ambitious to think I’ll get that far.) Though I have huge gaps in my reading background from 1800 to the present, the gaps in the earlier periods are even wider.
At the risk of allowing myself to be corrupted by the Dead White Men of the western canon, multiculturalism won’t be a high priority. And, no, I don’t suffer from a xenophobic resentment of multiculturalism. Far from it. Actually, I’ve been reading a number of ancient Asian texts in recent months and, again, I’m choosing titles to help fill the most egregious gaps in my reading.
I do want to mix up the genres and forms, covering some science, philosophy, economics, politics, history, plays and poetry along the way.
Here’s how my list is shaping up for the first part of the year:
Anonymous, ca. 2000 BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh, translated by Andrew George.
Homer, ca. 800 BCE. The Odyssey, translated by Robert Fagles.
Sappho, ca. 600 BCE. Selected poetry.
Aeschylus, 525-456 BCE. The Oresteia.
Pindar, 522-443 BCE. Selected poetry.
Sophocles, 496-406 BCE. Oedipus Rex.
Euripides, 484-406 BCE, Hippolytus.
Herodotus, 484-426 BCE. The Histories.
Thucydides, 470-400 BCE. The Peloponnesian War.
From The Portable Greek Historians: The Essence of Herodotus, Thucydides, Xenophon, Polybius (Viking Portable Library).
Aristophanes, 448-388 BCE. Lysistrata.
Early Greek Science: Thales to Aristotle, edited by G. E. R. Lloyd.
Plato, 428-348 BCE. The Republic and other selections from Great Dialogues of Plato, translated by W. H. D. Rouse.
Aristotle, 384-322 BCE. Selections from The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon.
Lucretius, ca. 100- ca. 50 BCE. On the Nature of Things.
Virgil, 70-19 BCE. The Aeneid, translated by Robert Fitzgerald.
Ovid, 43 BCE - 17 AD. Metamorphoses, translated by Charles Martin.
Epictetus, 55 AD– 135 AD, Discourses.
Marcus Aurelius, 121-180. Meditations, from The Essential Marcus Aurelius, edited by Jacob Needleman.