Teaching “The Odyssey” at San Quentin
The opening of “The Odyssey” describes Odysseus as polytropos, a man “much turned” and “much turning.” He makes much happen, and much happens to him. When I selected “The Odyssey” as the first text for my English 101 course at San Quentin Prison, I worried about the choice. It’s a difficult work for readers of limited literary background, and I wondered how a population of mostly black and brown men doing long prison terms would relate to the story of an ancient Greek king. As it turned out, I had them at polytropos.