In place of Odysseus’s 20 years at sea, Joe Goodkin only needed a guitar to bring a fresh version of the Odyssey back to Ithaca.
Musician Joe Goodkin performed Joe’s Odyssey, a modern western musical adaption of Homer’s The Odyssey, using an acoustic guitar and his vocals at an event hosted by the
department of Classics this Tuesday.
Goodkin felt, because Homer’s version already existed and was quite good, focusing on the narrative aspect of the story would be misguided. Instead he was more interested in “portraying the emotions and recreating the feelings present during The Odyssey.”
Goodkin, native to a suburb near Chicago, started playing guitar at age eight. While his musical commitment was less focused in college, he became an “accidental classicist” after he was looking to study something different sophomore year and chose Greek.
“I was lucky enough to study The Odyssey in three different college classes,” he said, adding that the comparative literature class he attended, “is probably the most eye opening in terms of understanding how other people have used The Odyssey as a jumping off point and taken some of the themes and brought them into their own time.”
Other modern adaptations and films like the Coen brothers’ O Brother Where Art Thou, demonstrated to Goodkin the fertile potential of The Odyssey for modern reinterpretation.
Goodkin studied how the Greeks made this story timeless and what could be transferred into a modern adaption. He was further interested in the elements of the original text that still hold true.
For example, he compared how Odysseus’s wife felt about the possibility of her son leaving to look for his father, to a contemporary parent’s feelings about sending their child to college.
Goodkin considered his performance a living experiment of reception theory, which studies modern responses of classic works. He claimed that the value of his work was in collaboration — not in competition — with Homer’s classic.
“I was worried that people would not get that it wasn’t narrative and that was on purpose, but I think it wound up being a strength because it’s just different,” he said. “It works alongside Homer’s version, it doesn’t try to replace it, it’s a reaction to it.”