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Even before coming to campus to begin classes this fall, Lafayette’s newest students are beginning their collegiate experience with a summer adventure.

An intellectual adventure, that is. The summer reading assignment for the Class of 2003 is one of the world’s most esteemed adventure stories, the Odyssey.

Homer’s epic is ancient, some 2,700 years old, but the translation is new – it’s Robert Fagles’ heralded 1996 translation of the magnificent poem – and so is the technology that is helping the students get the most out of it.

They are taking advantage of a special Lafayette Website ( that features a study guide to the Odyssey, a discussion board, and links to other helpful Internet sites, including Tufts University’s dynamic Perseus Project.

In addition to explaining why the Odyssey is great for a pre-freshman to experience before entering college, the study guide provides advice and discussion questions to focus the students’ reading. Through the discussion board, the students are sharing questions and comments about the Odyssey with each other in a virtual classroom made up of the entire class. The moderator, Howard J. Marblestone, Lafayette associate professor of foreign languages and literatures, provides answers and insights for the students’ edification.

When the students finally get to campus at summer’s end, the Odyssey will be further woven into their first experiences of college life. They will meet Fagles, a professor of comparative literature at Princeton University, on September 8, when he visits Lafayette to read from his Odyssey and discuss the problems of translating Homer into modern American English.

Other activities will tie into and enrich the students’ summer reading experience. During First-Year Orientation (August 26-29), for example, students will discuss the Odyssey in small groups, moderated by faculty, and will participate as an entire class in a special discussion of the work led by a panel of students and faculty.

Throughout the fall, students will attend lectures, performances, and other events tied to the theme of the Odyssey. Many of the events will be part of Lafayette’s Roethke Humanities Festival. Held every two years, the semester-long festival is named for Theodore Roethke (1908-63), a former Lafayette faculty member and noted poet of the 1940s and ’50s. Roethke published several critically acclaimed volumes of poetry, including The Waking, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1954.

Categorized in: Academic News