The Blues of Achilles: A Musical Performance - Oklahoma Center for the Humanities
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The Blues of Achilles: A Musical Performance

Join us 7:00 pm on Thursday, December 1 to hear the somber, yet beautiful lyrics of Joe Goodkin. Event to take place in Meinig Auditorium in the University of Tulsa’s Lorton Performance Center.

Trauma has become a common word in the past few decades, one that can describe a variety of experiences. It is most often used to as a medical term describing physical violence to one’s body and a psychological term that encompasses mental and emotional abuse. As a word, trauma has an interesting history. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, in the 19th century psychologists defined it as “thorns in the spirit” and “a morbid nervous condition.” In the 20th century it passed through several schools of thought to smooth out to a definition today with which many of us are familiar: “a psychic injury, especially one caused by emotional shock, the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed.”

It’s in this context that Joe Goodkin’s music asks us to consider what psychic healing looks like after the trauma of war. For almost two decades, Chicago-based musician and Classics degree holder Joe Goodkin has toured the United States. Recently Goodkin has created a 17-song adaptation of the Iliad steeped in ancient and modern war literature. He plays his music at VA hospitals as part of recreational therapy for veterans experiencing PTSD and other related war traumas. Joe’s first-person songs capture the horror, grief, and love that permeate the Iliad and the combat experience. Sung from the perspective of Achilles, Priam, Patroklus, Briseis, Helen, Andromache, and more, The Blues of Achilles evokes “the truths that the Iliad conveys [through] songs that [are] real and now” in the words of Tom Palaima, Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor of Classics at The University of Texas at Austin.

Goodkin’s work addresses directly the challenges caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that afflicts soldiers everywhere and often impacts their ability to reintegrate back into society to lead happy, healthy lives. These songs and performances ask what we owe to those who fought and sacrificed, not their lives, but their health and mental well-being. In thinking about the OCH theme of freedom, Goodkin’s work considers how war experiences limit a veteran’s freedom, autonomy, and outlook on the world. What does freedom mean for soldiers after the trauma of war? How can art help to restore a veteran’s a sense of dignity and well-being? How can art help them begin healing?

Joe Goodkin is a Chicago-based musician and songwriter. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s Degree in Classics. Since 2002, Joe has been traveling the United States as a modern bard performing his one-man folk opera retelling of Homer’s Odyssey to high school, college, and general audiences, over 300 performances at such institutions as Harvard, Brown, UC-Berkeley, Stanford, Duke, Princeton, Indiana University, Phillips Exeter, and more. He has performed his Odyssey in 43 US States as well as Canada, Greece, Italy, and The Netherlands.