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Mary Lefkowitz, the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the humanities and chair of the classical studies department at Wellesley College, will speak on “Values of Homer's Odyssey in a Modern World” at 8 p.m. Monday, November 1, in Room 108 of Lafayette College's Williams Center for the Arts.

The event, free and open to the public, is part of Lafayette's 1999-2000 Roethke Humanities Festival, titled “Modern Appropriations of Homer's Odyssey,” celebrating the epic which was this summer's common summer reading assignment for the Class of 2003. Held every two years, the Roethke 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.

“Reading between the lines of Odysseus's story, one can also learn what civilization meant to the Greeks,” stated Lefkowitz in a recent New York Times op-ed. “Their code of ethics and rules of etiquette, for example, lead Odysseus to expect people to greet him with gifts and hospitality when he arrives at a new place. He is, after all, a hero. He engineered the Greeks' conquest of the city of Troy. So he is surprised and horrified when people choose to attack him rather than to honor him for his achievements, and when some, instead of offering a meal and a sacrifice, turn out to be cannibals.”

Lefkowitz has written about the fifth-century B.C. Greek lyric poet Pindar (The Victory Ode, 1976 and First-Person Fictions, 1991); fiction in ancient biography (The Lives of the Greek Poets, 1981), and women in antiquity (Heroines and Hysterics, 1981, Women in Greek Myth, 1986, and Women's Life in Greece and Rome, 1982, second edition 1992). Her articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, and The New York Review of Books, and she has been asked to contribute op-eds to The New York Times.

Lefkowitz holds a Ph.D. in classical philology from Radcliffe College. She earned a bachelor's degree from Wellesley College, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She has been awarded fellowships by the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Onassis Foundation. She was a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a Sacher Visiting Fellow at St. Hilda's College, Oxford Univeristy, where she has been an Honorary Fellow since 1994. She has been awarded honorary degrees by Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., and the University of Patras in Greece.

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