The Iliathon: A 24-Hour Reading

Alyssa Labelle

The Iliathon. Who would have thought? As you can probably draw from the title, this is a 24-hour marathon reading of Homer’s The Iliad; that’s right, all 24 books. It will take place in the Ho Lecture Room and last from 4 p.m. today until 4 p.m. tomorrow.

The mastermind behind it all, first-year Shannon Young, freely admits to the quirkiness of this event. “Who goes to 24-hour readings of the Iliad?” she said. “But that’s part of why I like the idea – nobody does this sort of thing.”

How, you may wonder, did she come up with the idea?. It started at her high school, where students from the drama class put on the same event. Unfortunately, Young was not able to participate, but the concept behind the event continued to lurk in the corners of her mind ever since. Then one fateful day at Frank, the subject of the Iliad came up during a discussion with some classmates about the trials and tribulations of Western Traditions.

“We were just sort of talking about the book,” Young said. “I was like, ‘Hey, you know, they did this thing at my high school and it would be really cool if we did it.’ And they actually liked the idea. That’s sort of the neat thing about Colgate. You can find people who actually are interested in this kind of thing and are willing to do it.”

To get the ball rolling she went to talk to Professor of English Deborah Knuth-Klenck, who was happy to point her in the direction of some more people who could help. Roy D. and Margaret B. Wooster Professor of the Classics Robert Garland and Administrative Assistant for the Divison of the Humanities and Department of the Classics Beth MacKinnon soon became instrumental in the planning of this event.

The Iliathon is sponsored by the Classics Department, and the Austin-Murray Classics Fund is covering the costs of food and other expenditures related to this special occasion.

Many different people and groups have gotten involved and plan to participate in various creative ways. Each book is allotted an hour for the person or group signed up to read out loud. Reading the book out loud is a crucial part of the Iliathon. When students read these books for school, they often do not read them out loud, but epic stories like The Iliad were originally presented orally and were passed down from generation to generation as a spoken story, not as words written on a page. “It was meant to be told out loud,” Young said, “and now we actually get to hear it out loud, from start to finish.”

The first book is going to be read by classics faculty in the original ancient Greek. The second book is also going to be read in ancient Greek, but by advanced students of the language. Fortunately for those of us who don’t have the luxury of understanding that particular language, English translations of all the books will be projected on a wall for the audience to read. Any and all creativity is accepted regarding this event. People are encouraged to come in costume to get into the spirit of The Iliad. There are even rumors floating around involving puppet shows and miming.

“I’m hoping to be surprised by it.” Young said. “I’ve already had a lot of good surprises! I don’t know exactly what all the people are planning on doing [with their books], and that’s kind of exciting to me. People who come and watch don’t know what to expect. I don’t know what to expect from some people! It’ll be an interesting experience.”

Widespread participation both by the readers and the audience will be needed to make the Iliathon a success. If the event goes over well, Young would like to continue it with an Odyssion, a reading of The Odyssey? , and then perhaps branch out of the classics into other pieces of literature. “If this is successful I’d really like to make it into a series and keep having these marathon readings,” Young said. “It’s crazy! Nobody does this. That’s what makes it fun.” Who knows what’s next. Moby Dick?

First-year Lisha Mays will be part of a group reading book 13 at 4 a.m. She spoke about what she was looking forward to at the event. “Well, the food is always good,” she said. “And it’ll be entertaining watching people try to pronounce really complicated Greek names. It sounds interesting, and it’ll definitely be a nice break from writing papers!”

Those interested in signing up last minute can send an e-mail to Young at [email protected].