In courses on classical mythology and literature in translation, this panelist has introduced part of his own research on classical reception in early modern Spanish and Portuguese literatures of colonialization. In particular, I have my students read Luís Vaz de Camões’ Lusiads, a late 16th century epic poem in which the Olympic deities oversee Vasco da Gama’s attempt to discover a sea route to India and aid him when he is detained by local Muslim leaders in Calicut (modern Koshikode in the state of Kerala, India). By reading the Lusiads alongside Homer’s Odyssey and Virgil’s Aeneid I ask my students to think about how classical epics provided literary and conceptual models for narratives of European conquests and colonialism. But these texts require more nuance. In future versions of these classes, I am exploring opportunities to include early Islamic and Persian romances to provide contrasting perspectives and narratives to counter our often Eurocentric readings of classical reception.
Beyond Reception: Addressing Issues of Social Justice in the Classroom with Modern Comparisons