Penn State

Brenda L. Russell - associate professor of psychology, Penn State Berks

Book Title: The Iliad and The Odyssey

Author: Homer

Book Description:

When I was an undergraduate I had taken the equivalent of a minor in literature. What I remember the most was one professor who profoundly affected how I thought. I had taken at least three or four literature courses from this professor, the first of which taught The Iliad and the Odyssey. I loved the book as my professor portrayed it. He was quite unconventional in his teachings. He often spoke of matriarch and patriarch societies and pre-history. He believed the Odyssey was one of the first agricultural calendars. His take on Grimm's Fairy Tales also ignited my passion for studying gender differences. He taught us of his unusual theories behind many literature classics.

This professor taught me to think critically. To question the written word. He would finish each course by saying "you know everything that I've taught you this semester can be all wrong." He was right and he admitted that his theories were just that—theories. This made me think of everything that we read and write and how what we read or research may be true one day and with one population, and not true the next. I apply this to my own discipline in psychology. When I study gender differences and consider the origin of such gender differences, I often think of this professor and these poems.

I can only hope that I can stimulate such thinking and ignite such passion in my own students.


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