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Homer's 'Odyssey' comes alive in Ithaca through "Arts Unplugged," a new series sponsored by the College of Arts & Sciences, kicking off April 26 with "The Odyssey in Ithaca." The daylong community reading of a new translation of Homer's Odyssey features campus and community members. Reading will begin at 8 a.m. and continue until 8 p.m. in the Groos Family Atrium in Klarman Hall on the Cornell campus. The event is open to the public; audience members are free to attend for any part of the reading at any time of day.

"This event highlights our local connection to Odysseus's native land and reminds us that so much of the 'journey' happens right at home—half of the poem takes place once he has reached Ithaca," said organizer Athena Kirk, assistant professor of classics. "We will hear this old poem through the voices and faces of today's Ithaca, amidst ancient statue casts and lunchtime banqueters, with listeners coming and going throughout the day: a modern reimagining of an ancient epic performance."

Readers for the event will include local middle and high school students; students, faculty and staff from Cornell, Ithaca College and Binghamton University; and community members. "The event is a splendid way to transform Ithaca into a choral island, if only for a few hours," said Ishion Hutchinson, associate professor of English and another organizer of the event. "Even though a single individual will read at a time, each voice will enter another then another then another and accumulate into a chorus. We can't take for granted or lightly the power of the human voice, elevated together in what is a celebration of home and homecoming."

Arts Unplugged is a celebration of the arts, humanities, social sciences and sciences that takes these topics beyond the classroom and brings them into the community. The series will feature several special events each semester.

"Our faculty and students are exploring, researching and creating new terrains of human understanding and experience across the College every day," said Ray Jayawardhana, Harold Tanner Dean of Arts & Sciences. "Our new series celebrates their work and provides a platform to share it with our community. And what better way to kick off the series than with a reading of this classic work in the beautiful Klarman Hall space."

Readers will be using a new translation of Homer's Odyssey by Emily Wilson, the first translation by a woman. The Odyssey tells the tale of a man's turbulent travels home from war and the wide cast of characters he meets along the way.

"This poem is often thought of as a monolith, a piece of literature about and for a certain elite subset of the population," Kirk said. "But Wilson's translation highlights the wide range of human experience that exists in the original. Reading her text together in public draws that diversity into the present and makes this a poem for everyone."

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