Madison Morrison's Web / About MM / Greek

MADISON MORRISON: A brief biography

The Greek Gods and the Sentence

MM’s experience of Greece spans decades. In Spring 1966, as a lecturer for the University of Maryland, he taught American soldiers at a military base on Crete, near the ancient Minoan port of Amnisos, not far from Iraklion, the modern capital. On trips by Volkswagen bus, from one end of the island to the other, armed with Pendlebury’s multi-volume guide, he studied ruins and engaged with modern denizens of this, the arche of modern European civilization. (MM’s experience of Crete is briefly recounted in Magic, his autobiography, in the HERMES sequence.) Forty years later he returned to Athens to write A Farewell to Greece (collected in Life, the final book of the Sentence); it incorporates passages from a history of classical Greece, including the adventures of Alexander (which continue in Central Europe). MM revisited the site of the conqueror’s childhood, Thessaloniki, where Aristotle had been his tutor, and made a brief excursion to Veria, the site of the tomb of Philip, Alexander’s father. In 2000, on a voyage around the world that included South America and Iberia (see Possibly), Egypt (see Renewed), Israel and Lebanon (see Every), MM also composed his imitation of Homer, situating his own Iliad (see Second,1) in Istanbul, his own Odyssey (see Second,2) in the Aegean Islands and the Peloponnesus, before sailing from Patras with Vergil (see Second,3) to Brindisi and continuing on with the poet’s remains to Naples, where MM accompanied the Mantuan in spirit to the summit of Vesuvius and released him into the heavens.

At Harvard, as a teaching assistant in Humanities 1, Morrison had his first chance to teach the Odyssey and Attic drama. For two years with Maryland in Europe he taught (always in translation) the Iliad, and again Attic drama, to military students. For twenty years he taught Homer at the University of Oklahoma, in courses for undergraduates concerned with poetic texts and epic literature. Only in China did he began teaching the Greeks and Romans, as well as their Renaissance imitators, to graduate students, some of whom were the first Chinese to write theses on such subjects as Vergil, Dante, Tasso and Milton; Ovid and Byron; Vergil and Spenser. They had all begun by studying Homer with Morrison. Subsequently he has lectured on Homer in Korea and Romania (see Recent lectures). As Fulbright professor in India he lectured on Hesiod and the Puranas, Iliad and Mahabharata, Odyssey and Ramayana; as visiting professor at the University of Rome, on Homer, Vergil and their Renaissance imitators. During his writing tour of the Eastern Mediterranean, conducted in the persona of Odysseus, he lectured in the Department of Comparative Literature at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, on “Allegory and the Western Epic”; in the Department of Comparative Literature at Patras University he spoke about his own imitations of Homer. There follows a miniature imitatio, first of the “Ten Poems,” whose full English text is embedded in Second,2. For translations into other languages see MM: The Sentence Commuted.

The full text of A Farewell to Greece

Nadia Trata’s Modern Greek translation of Ten Poems from Second, 1

Excerpts from Her and Second,1 (in Alessio Rosoldi’s Italian translation)