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Art, History & Politics, Literature, Music, Theater & Dance

Performing Homer

The Voyage of Ulysses from Epic to Opera

February 24, 2021
12:30 pm

Viva Voce
Panel Discussion on Zoom
In order to participate, RSVP and you will receive an e-mail with an invitation link
by 11am on February 24

If you don’t receive the e-mail by then, contact us at


Book Presentation
Performing Homer
The Voyage of Ulysses from Epic to Opera

(Routledge, 2019)

Edited by
Wendy Heller (Princeton University)
Eleonora Stoppino (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

The editors in conversation with
Emily Pillinger (King’s College London)
Sarah Van der Laan (University of Indiana Bloomington)

Co-sponsored by Medieval and Renaissance Center at NYU

The Iliad and the Odyssey are among the oldest surviving works of literature derived from oral performance. Deeply embedded in these works is the notion that they were intended to be heard: there is something musical about Homer’s use of language and a vivid quality to his images that transcends the written page to create a theatrical experience for the listener. Indeed, it is precisely the theatrical quality of the poems that would inspire later interpreters to cast the Odyssey and the Iliad in a host of other media -novels, plays, poems, paintings, and even that most elaborate of all art forms, opera, exemplified by no less a work than Monteverdi’s Il ritorno di Ulisse in patria. In Performing Homer: The Voyage of Ulysses from Epic to Opera, edited by Wendy Heller and Eleonora Stoppino, scholars in classics, drama, Italian literature, art history, and musicology explore the journey of Homer’s Odyssey from ancient to modern times. The book traces the reception of the Odyssey through the Italian humanist sources—from Dante, Petrarch, and Ariosto—to the treatment of the tale not only by Monteverdi but also by such composers as Elizabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, Gluck, and Alessandro Scarlatti, and the dramatic and poetic traditions thereafter by such modern writers as Derek Walcott and Margaret Atwood.

Emily Pillinger (PhD Princeton) is Senior Lecturer in Latin Language and Literature at King’s College London; a specialist of Latin poetry and the reception of classics, particularly in music, she is the author of Cassandra and the Poetics of Prophecy in Greek and Latin Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Sarah Van der Laan (PhD Yale) is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Indiana Bloomington; a specialist of epic poetry and its reception through the European Renaissance, she is the author of The Choice of Odysseus: Homeric Ethics in Renaissance Epic (forthcoming). Wendy Heller (PhD Brandeis) is the Scheide Professor of Music History and Chair of the Department of Music at Princeton University, and Director of the Program in Italian Studies; a leading scholar in the field of Baroque music, with a focus on interdisciplinary approaches to 17th- and 18th-century opera, she is the author of Emblems of Eloquence: Opera and Women’s Voices in Seventeenth-Century Venice (University of California Press, 2003), Music in the Baroque: Western Music in Context (Norton, 2014), and is currently completing a book entitled Animating Ovid: Opera and the Metamorphoses of Antiquity in Early Modern Italy. Eleonora Stoppino (PhD Berkeley) is Associate Professor of Italian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; a specialist of medieval and early modern literary cultures, with concentrations on epic and romance, travel narratives, conduct texts, gender studies, and animal studies, she is the author of Genealogies of Fiction: Women Warriors and the Dynastic Imagination in the Orlando Furioso (Fordham University Press, 2011). 


Organized by Prof. Eugenio Refini, Viva Voce is a series of events – conversations, talks, book discussions – that address the intersections of voice, performance and the mechanisms of reception. Featuring specialists from different fields, these interdisciplinary events aim to bridge across research, teaching, and public outreach.