The International Readers of Homer was founded in 1998 by Kathryn Hohlwein, Professor Emerita of Literature at California State University, Sacramento. Prof. Hohlwein began mounting marathon readings of the Iliad and the Odyssey as part of a community course on Homer. The first reading was staged out of doors, at Sacramento’s Gibson Ranch, and ran through the night. It attracted 168 participants, who settled in with sleeping bags, flashlights, and copies of Richard Lattimore’s translation, as a local scholar opened the reading in Homeric Greek:
Along with their passage, participants were given two instructions – do not apologize and do not comment in any way. The goal was to read the poem smoothly and continuously, and through this to experience the scope and power of Homeric epic.
This goal has not changed, but the reach of the International Readers and the complexity of our activities have. Over the past 20 years, the organization has mounted 18 readings in cities as diverse as New York and Los Angeles, London and Brussels, Montevideo, Alexandria, and – in Greece – on the islands of Kos and Chios. Because our events are organized in collaboration with local partners, each reading is a unique experience tuned to the needs and interests of the local community. A reading at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 2011 highlighted connections with the museum’s antiquities collection, whereas a reading in Summer 2012 at the Hellenic Centre in London celebrated the spirit of the Olympics. In Montevideo in 2010, we partnered with the Maria Tsakos Foundation for a week-long celebration of Homer that included lectures, seminars, theater, dance, music, film, art exhibitions, and of course readings of both the Iliad and the Odyssey. Jornadas Homericas was attended by over 5000 people from across Uruguay. Our most recent reading of the Odyssey in Athens was sponsored, in part, by the UNHCR - the United Nations Refugee Agency - in recognition and support of international refugees.
The International Readers of Homer is currently developing educational programs and resources to broaden the reach of its foundational reading program. An online companion course with video lectures by Kathryn Hohlwein is in development.