Speech Night 2011


The Influence of Greek Literature class studied Greek literature and the influence it has had on the body of classic English and American works. Students began with a reading of Greek mythology, dramas and epics, including Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex and Homer’s Odyssey. Students ended the year with a reading of English and American works that make allusions to or retell the Greek stories in poetry or prose (e.g., Tennyson’s “Ulysses” and Keats’ odes). In reading these works, students examined how the author interpreted the specific myths or stories. Our reading also included works that evinced the Greek view of life or the Greek art of composition (e.g., Tennyson’s “Tithonus” and Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

    “Theodicy” is the study of God’s providence in view of the evil that exists in the world. How do we react to bad fortune? Do we bear the evil stoically or attempt to conquer it? Do we despair, or do we look up in faith, knowing that all will come out right in the end when God returns to establish justice on earth? Homer’s Odyssey presents a panoply of characters that all seem to hold a different view of man’s evil fate and how to deal with it. The dramatic monologues that the audience heard on Speech Night 2011 reflected the Greek view of life as seen through Greek literature, particularly the Odyssey—from Melanthius the goatherd who sees that the best way to deal with the misfortunes of life is to be opportunistic, to the hero Odysseus who views bad fate as something to combat bravely and eventually overcome.

    One of the supreme enjoyments of human experience is listening to a fellow human being relate a familiar experience. We love to hear about things we already know—stories, anecdotes, experiences. The great essayists of the distant past—Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Charles Lamb, William Hazlitt, George Orwell and E.B. White—capitalized on this truth of human nature (of getting enjoyment out of listening to the familiar rather than to the strange) by writing essays in which they relate common experiences and making profound observations on those common experiences.

    This year’s Speech Night speeches were written in response to an essay written by E. B. White, titled “The Sea and the Wind that Blows.” Written at the end of E.B. White’s life, this essay is about a common experience enough—sailing—and yet through the simple experience, White is able to make profound reflections. When White talks about his boat and the wind in the essay, he is really talking about his own life and circumstances. For instance, he writes that a boat is not only beautiful, but also full of strange promise and a hint of trouble. Doesn’t that describe life to the T? What promise life holds to us in the offing when we are young and healthy, but when the wind goes contrary, what terrors loom in the distance to shipwreck our craft! White says in the essay that despite his old age, he continues to sail. “Now in my seventies,” he writes, “I still own a boat, still raise my sail in fear in answer to the summons of the unforgiving sea. Why does the sea attract me in the way it does?” White’s essay is very suggestive, and the attentive reader will note that the questions White poses are not about continuing to sail, but about continuing to live and fight against life’s misfortunes.

    For their Speech Night assignment, students had to consider something that they liked doing and write an essay using that “something” as a metaphor for their life. They were encouraged to make the metaphor speak so that it tells the listener/reader that they are really talking about their life and not just about their “hobby.”

Albert and Gianni Manginelli, The Prophets Tiresias and Calchas: Fate

Peter Callahan, The Cyclops: on Hospitality

Austin Berman, Vote for Rich Goodfellow and MGM

Tom Stevens, Odysseus: Conquer Your Fate

Peter Clark, The Laestrygonians

Samuel Walter, False Security

Julia Fijan, On Baking

Mark Luber, Telemachus

Jackson Kane, Achilles: Just One Small Thing

Darin Garner, Agamemnon

MaryGrace Levis, Fear of Diving

Mary Mox, Fumbling Fingers

Ellis Sergeant, The Lotus Eaters

Baret Lyon, Hector

Charissa Garner, The Art of Gossip

Ben Dimaio, Life with Pheasants

Lily Welch, Aphrodite

Madeline Clark, Athena

Oliver Kocher, A Spiritual Telescope

Alex Lingle, Eumaeus


When I read great literature, great drama, speeches, or sermons, I feel that the human mind has not achieved anything greater than the ability to share feelings and thoughts through language.

—James Earl Jone

Theodicy and the Odyssey