“Sing, Goddess, Achilles’ rage,
Black and murderous, that cost the Greeks
Incalculable pain, pitched countless souls
Of heroes into Hades’ dark,
And left their bodies to rot as feasts
For dogs and birds, as Zeus’ will was done
Begin with the clash between Agamemnon—
The Greek warlord—and godlike Achilles.”
From Book 1 of The Iliad by Homer (translated by Stanley Lombardo)
Achilles, the godlike hero of Homer’s Iliad, has claimed the western imagination for thousands of years. Now, the Scholars in the Schools program, with 14 Sam Rayburn high school juniors, has laid claim to him.
“There is something in Achilles’ experience that resonates with the lives, I believe, of the high school students at Sam Rayburn,” said UH Honors College professor Robert Zaretsky who, with his brother-in-law Brian Johnston, created the program as enrichment for students who may have never been on a college campus or considered college. Johnston teaches high school English at Rayburn High School.
Scholars in the Schools aims to provide high school students with unique, pre-college learning experiences through informal, yet engaging, seminars conducted at UH and at Rayburn High School.
“Very much like these students, I believe, Achilles has to deal with the needs and duties friendship. He also has to deal with his relationship to the community. There’s an issue with family, that family has certain imperatives that often conflict with community and with friends,” Zaretsky said. “But, ultimately, the more important thing that students from Pasadena take away from The Iliad is Achilles’ struggle to find meaning.”
Zaretsky hopes their epic experience with Achilles leads them to pursue other academic odysseys.
“I would like for them to take Achilles with them,” he said. “I would like for them to take his experiences and realizations with them. I want them to gain the knowledge that once they go home to Pasadena they aren’t alone—the classics are with them.”
Scholars in the School is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston. I’m Marisa Ramirez.
Telling the stories of the University of Houston, this UH Moment is brought to you by KUHF, listener supported radio from the University of Houston.