The Committee on Public Information and Media Relations is pleased to announce that this year's Forum Prize, for a work originating outside the academy, has been awarded to Jeff Wright for Odyssey: The Podcast.
The winner of the 2019 Society for Classical Studies Forum Prize—Jeff Wright, creator and performer of Odyssey: The Podcast—takes many turns toward and away from his illustrious epic source. Jeff’s Homer is a composite character built on the bases of English translations among the most appealing today. But Jeff is not content merely to play rhapsode to Homer’s bard.
Rather, Jeff transforms Homer’s travel narrative into a story for the twenty-first century. Inviting his hearers to a sumptuous feast for thought, Jeff guides his audience through the intricacies of the Odyssey’s plot by adopting his own epic conventions. Thus, the poem’s tortuous timeline gives way to The Podcast’s chronological progression, beloved yet overlooked Odyssey characters get their own back stories at last, and the epic’s lofty language means even more now when voiced in a plain-spoken vernacular. True to Jeff’s experience as a teacher as well as a storyteller, his Odyssey assembles what immediate understanding requires, delivering epic history as well as story, thought experiments for the near future as well as a long-gone past’s philosophical concepts, and overviews of scholarly debates over such issues as authorship, critical editing, and interpretive biases as well as provisional, practical solutions to these problems for those wanting to look at but not leap into such lotuses. Thanks to Jeff, Homer’s landmark epic sings all the more enticingly and inclusively, holding the attention of its many listeners while ensuring that nothing blocks their eager ears.
Citation by Shubha Pathak, Chair, Committee on Public Information and Media Relations