INTRODUCTION TO THE ODYSSEY
AS A PRELUDE TO THE
GREEK NATIONAL CHARACTER
Myths and Social, Political, and Religious Background for the Odyssey
The Odyssey is not only the greatest adventure story of all time, as movies have shown, but more importantly it is a major document in the growth of the west. While its literary value is hard to miss--Homer for example is the first writer to coin the most important figure of speech in literature, the simile [epic simile]--its broader culture value can be to lost to us unless we see the work as mimetic of Greek culture, some details of which follow.
1. THE TROJAN WAR--fact? Myth?
Note the following definitions of myths from Joseph Campbell, Northrup Frye and JRR Tolkien:
a. Result of imaginative reflection; the precursor of science, striking on natural phenomenon and religious belief.
b. Transmission of cumulative knowledge and experience and universal truths consistent in human experience through symbols.
c. Stories told about man's relationship with nature, localized in time / place. Anthropomorphic. (Tolkien)
d. Imitation of actions near or at the conceivable limits of desire. (Frye)
e. The first function of a mythology is to waken and maintain in the individual a sense of wonder and participation in the mystery of this finally inscrutable universe...the second function is to fill every particle and quarter of the current cosmological image with its measure of this mystical import...the third function...is the sociological one of validating and maintaining whatever moral system and manner of life-customs may be peculiar to the local culture...the fourth, and final, essential function of mythology, then, is the pedagogical one of conducting individuals in harmony through the passages of human life, from the stages of dependency in childhood to the responsibilities of maturity, and on to old age... The principal method of mythology is the poetic, that of analogy.. death by sleep, or vice versa; and the experiences of sleep then as the (supposed) experiences of death; the light of the sun as of consciousness; the darkness of caves, or of the ocean depth, as of death, or of the womb... (Campbell)
2-Exercise: Apply these definitions to The Odyssey.
On line: resources:
On line: click here for the best classical web pages.
MacKendrick, Paul. The Greek Stones Speak. NY: W.W. Norton, 1982
Miller, Walter. Introduction to "The Odyssey." New York: Pocket Books, 1997. Note: This edition was prepared for the NBC TV production, and contains an excellent introduction.
Schliemann, Heinrich. Troy and Its Remains. NY: Arno Press, 1976
Wood, Michael. In Search of The Trojan War. NY Facts on File Publications, 1998 [Based on the PBS series]
MYTH OUTLINE FOR THE ODYSSEY
I. MYTH MEANS: 'I INVENT' -
A STORY OF MAN'S ORIGINS
B. CREATION OF THE WORLD BY THE GODS
C. THE EXPLOITS OF HEROES LIKE ACHILLES / HECTOR / ODYSSEUS
II. HOW TO UNDERSTAND NATURE IN A PRE-SCIENTIFIC AGE:
A. MACROCOSM AND MICROCOSM
B. RECONCILIATION OF OPPOSITES--DEFINE THEM IN THE ODYSSEY
C. PERSONIFICATION--ENDOWMENT OF THINGS- ANIMISM
D. NATURE BECOMES ALIVE AND HELPS US DETERMINE WHO WE ARE, AND WHAT IS OUT THERE?
E. ROLE OF METAPHOR AND THE EPIC SIMILE-RECONCILIATION OF BINARIES:
F. WHAT BINARIES ARE IN THE ODYSSEY--WHAT OPPOSITES NEED TO BE RECONCILED?
III. THE ROLE OF THE IMAGINATION AND THE CREATIVE PROCESS IS ESSENTIAL.
A. IN BEOWULF, WE HAVE THE MONSTERS
B. IN THE ODYSSEY, WE HAVE THE GODS and MONSTERS
C. IN PARADISE LOST, WE HAVE SATAN AND GOD
IV. THIS LEADS TO WHETHER THERE EXISTS A GRAND DESIGN THAT MAN CAN TRY TO UNDERSTAND--THIS WILL EVENTUALLY LEAD TO RULES FOR BEHAVIOR: WHAT IS 'OUT THERE,' AND HOW TO WE COME TO KNOW WHAT IT WANTS: THE BEGINNING OF ETHICS.
C. EPIC LANGUAGE ARTICULATES A SOCIOLOGY:
1. COMITATUS IN BEOWULF--WORD / TREASURE HOARD
2. ODYSSEY--THE HONOR CODE: WHAT FAMILY VIOLATES AND WHAT FAMILY UPHOLDS THE CODE?
3. SEE THE ILIAD, BOOK XII: GLAUCON AND SARPEDON'S CONVERSATION ABOUT DEATH AND HONOR
V. USEFULNESS OF MYTH:
A. UNIFYING SYMBOL OF THE SOCIAL GROUP-- FRATERNAL UNION--NEED TO RECONCILE AND BELONG VS. SPLENDID ISOLATION OF THE HERO LIKE ODYSSEUS--NOTE HIS FUNDAMENTAL CHOICE-WHAT IS HE OFFERED, AND ARE YOU SURPRISED AT HIS ANSWER?
B. KEEP ALIVE THE SENSE OF THE SUPERNATURAL-- THAT SOMETHING ELSE IS OUT THERE
C. DEVELOPS A PRAYER MENTALITY--STAR TREK: "THE TROUBLE WITH A BELIEF IN THE SUPERNATURAL IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT IT WANTS:
VI. VARIETIES OF MYTHS:
A. NATURALISTIC (macrocosmic)--EXPLANATION OF WHAT NATURE MEANS
B. HISTORICAL (microcosmic)--SOCIAL GROUP KEEPS LINKS TO THE PAST--DIFFUSION IN TIME AND IN SPACE--TOLKIEN
C. RELIGIOUS--GIVE REASON FOR RITES:
1. SACRIFICIAL RITUALS IN THE ILIAD:
2. THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
VII. PEOPLE WITH EXCEPTIONAL POWERS OF IMAGINATION AND INVENTION, WHO FIRST COMMITTED THE PRIMITIVE MYTHS TO WRITING...
VIII. WHAT DO WE KNOW OF HOMER AND THE HOMERIC IMAGINATION?
I-EXAMPLE OF THE GREEK CREATION MYTH FROM THE THEOGONY OF HESIOD...
- THE GREEK VIEW OF CREATION DIFFERS FROM THE CHRISTIAN IN SEVERAL WAYS. IN THE CHRISTIAN VIEW, GOD PRE-EXISTS ALL AND MAKES THE UNIVERSE OUT OF NOTHING FROM AN ACT OF HIS WILL. THE GREEK VIEW SAYS THE FOLLOWING: .THE UNIVERSE CREATED THE GODS. CREATION MEANS BRINGING ORDER FROM CHAOS. CERTAIN ENTITIES ALWAYS EXISTED, AND THEIR "CREATION" - ORIGIN IS NOT AN ISSUE.
- THE POET MILTON PUT IT THUS: "FIRST THERE WAS CHAOS, THE VAST/ IMMEASURABLE ABYSS, OUTRAGEOUS/ AS A SEE, DARK, WASTEFUL, WILD."
II. DETAILS OF THE MYTHOLOGY: (SEE THE THEOGONY OF HESIOD. THERE ARE PROSE SUMMARIES SUCH AS HAMILTON'S MYTHOLOGY ALSO.
A-GAEA--EARTH (FEMALE) WEDDED WITH OURANOS--HEAVENS (MALE), AND THE WORLD BEGAN.
B-ANOTHER VERSION OF MAN'S ORIGIN STATES THAT HE EVOLVED THROUGH SEVERAL STAGES:
GOLDEN AGE---similar to a heavenly existence--they knew no constraints & lived in peace--(saints)
SILVER AGE---less intelligent and more prone to war--reckless violence against one another
BRONZE AGE---God like race of heroes and race of warriors-- dreadful...bent on the harsh deeds of war...bronze were their weapons
DIVINE RACE--heroes; demigods--they had sailed to Troy for the sake of lovely-haired Helen
IRON AGE---like man today after the fall, prone to evil--growing cares will be given them by the gods
A simple but important example for readers of THE ODYSSEY is the Greek attitude toward the sea. They depended on fishing for much of their food, on communication with the islands for their trade. But they were terrified by the open water, they hugged the coast, rarely venturing out far from home as the western end of the Mediterranean. Without charts, logs, or compasses, they could rely only on the simplest kind of "dead reckoning" . Any unknown current, unseen rock, or mild storm was a catastrophe. Note the importance of storms and water disasters in THE ODYSSEY:
Watching with dread as dark clouds gathered, as calm waters suddenly grew furious, as massive waves began to pound them and fierce winds drive them to nowhere, they were appalled at the malevolence of the sea. They could not help seeing it in terms of themselves; this was vindictive wrath directed toward them by some great superhuman power, like one of my test. How had they displeased the power? Not certain perhaps of specific offenses, puny men could make only a general appeal, acknowledging the sea god's greater power, asking for his blessing, mercy, cooperation. If they survived--and surely, before they went aboard ship again--they would make elaborate sacrifice to Poseidon, as they called him, hoping to flatter him to get in his good graces. Note the main cause for Odysseus' troubles.
This conception of a natural force as a supernatural being gave rise to many myths about him, his feats and personality; these myths became the basis for rituals that his worshipers performed in an effort to make contact with him. Mythology then is the essence of ancient religion.
Rituals and myths varied from place to place. Greek mythology might be though of as "political cartoons" that embody (not at times without satire) elemental truths about a culture's development. As such they are fundamentally mimetic. In Greece the "elemental truths" involve what archeology has confirmed--the "...movement from the matriarchal to the patriarchal perspective--from a dominate mother goddess [Gaea], whose realm is the earth and who embodies fertility, to a dominate male sky god who embodies vast power above the earth." [Uranus]. In an agrarian culture, naturally the earth would be worshiped as a source of life. Each tribe glorified a fertility goddess, since from the male perspective, procreation was unknown. From this worship came the fundamental cycle archetype of birth-life-death-rebirth etc. Additionally, since life and death seemed to come from darkness, the moon (in its phases) became associated with this worship. Each tribe had a priestess who embodied the will of the goddess:
"I am the natural mother of all life, the ruler of the elements, the first being, the chief of all gods, the queen of the world below, the first of those in the world above. I govern the light in the sky, the winds in the ocean...My single divine nature is worshiped throughout the world in many forms. Thus early races call me:
All women were considered her daughters.
IV. THEOLOGY AND ARCHEOLOGY:
Archeology suggests that as aggressive tribes (Achaeans) invaded what would become Greece, their male-dominated religions fused with the female ones described above, and this fusion generated the Olympian gods and goddesses familiar to readers of Homer. In practice the female fertility goddess acquires a male consort, a so-called "sacred-king" who in his youth would be sacrificed so his vitality would be preserved in his successor. Historically, this suggests the Hellenic invasion of, for example, Crete. Archeologists (Evans) confirmed that Knossus was advanced but relatively unfortified. This sacrifice has its parallels. The female 'opposite' gave birth to and nourished the male 'opposite' called Uranus (Sky). Thus the male is above the female, implying of course the mode for procreation (micro), and a fertile harvest (macro): sperm rains down.
The early myths are not without some rather horrid details that probably mime historical reality. Uranus bore Gaea generations of children, some of whom (Titans) were destined to precede the Olympian gods: e.g. Cronus-Zeus Uranus fearing rebellion in his children imprisoned them; Enraged, they and Gaea plotted revenge:
CRONUS: "I will promise to help you punish cruel Uranus..." As day light faded into dusk...Uranus arrived bringing with him the blanket of night. Desiring Gaea's comfort and love, he...embraced his wife, unaware that he lay within an arm's reach of treachery...The reclining god could not see the huge, black sickle shaped shadow waving menacingly above his body. Cronos castrated his father and threw his testicles into the sea.
Of this incident, Hesiod writes:
...with his right hand he grasped the huge, long, and sharp-toothed sickle and swiftly hacked off his father's genitals and tossed them behind him and they were not flung from his hand in vain.
Gaia took in all the bloody drops that spattered off, and as the seasons of the year tuned round she bore the potent Furies ...As soon as Kronos had lopped off the genitals with the sickle, he tossed them from the land into the stormy sea. And as they were carried by the sea a long time, all around them white foam rose from the god's flesh and in this foam a maiden was nurtured...
Both gods and men call her Aphrodite because she grew out of AFROS, foam that is And here is the power she had form the start...from her comes young girl's whispers and smiles and deception and honey-sweet love and its joyful pleasures.
Thus is explained the birth of a goddess important in Homer. Recall also her role in the critical judgement of Paris that led to the war. Historically the incident may explain the strong conservative resistance to paternal religions, fused with the agricultural fertility archetype. Helen, for example, was also the name of a Spartan "moon-goddess", marriage to whom made Menelaus a [sacred?] king. During the trade wars, and piracy of the times, woman may have been carried off as slaves in retaliation for a Greek attack on Troy. Note there is a scene in the Odyssey that deals with the issues discussed here in a somewhat satiric and ironic mode.
Zeus represents the male archetype in the Olympian hierarchy; his frequent sexual liaisons suggest the fusion of the male with the various maternal religions. The fact that RAPE often occurs suggests violent resistance to change. See ILIAD XIV, 375 ff.
Hera etc. represent female fertility goddesses. Her name means "protectress." The birth of Athena (wisdom/courage) from Zeus' head implies a "desperate attempt" to rid her of matriarchal conditions. Wisdom was to be seen as a male prerogative.
Historically the suitors of Helen may have been those wishing to negotiate trade rights for the confederacy to navigate the Hellespont. In fact, the naval war to interrupt Troy's hegemony might have taken ten years as opposed to the siege itself. All of this followed the fall of Crete as various tribes on the mainland tried to shape economic destiny.
Thus a God supreme in one city might just be a rumor in another town. The power of love might be represented in adjacent seaports by vividly different goddesses. The appearance of these deities, as revealed in statues, cave murals, and gold jewelry and coins, would depend on the talent of the local wood carver, stone cutter, and metal worker. No one objected to such diversity of religious notions, keeping in mind however, the male/female "contest" noted earlier. Everybody wanted a local patron god as his own special protector, and polytheism was the only type of religion that made sense in the ancient world of chaos. Note in this connection that the Greek definition of creation is bringing order out of chaos.
Here Homer exerted immeasurable influence in shaping the Greek notion of gods. In all this apparent diversity of cosmic forces, Homer saw unity or reconciliation of opposites. In THE ODYSSEY, he portrays the gods in a well organized hierarchy, which is one of the ancestors of what will become the most important idea in the west--the chain of being.
In other words, from hordes of gods and goddesses whom he had heard about in his travels--gods local, vague, and various, Homer selected and glorified those that seemed to represent man's spiritual needs and ideals: 1. the need to belong 2. the need for love 3. the need for order 4. the need for family the need for justice
He depicted all of them as really different of the same father god--Zeus. He invested these gods with memorable personalities--they are anthropomorphic, and he gave them distinct attributes so that each could be visualized by a listening audience. Note in THE ODYSSEY especially the roles of Poseidon and Athena and Zeus. Homer depicted the gods as agents of the civilizing virtues and customs: removal and burial of the dead, hospitality to travelers and strangers, respect for life and property, a sense of balance and order, proportion, the relationship between the macrocosm and microcosm and love for Dr. Nighan.
I . HOMER is credited with having written or recited the first epic poems. May have lived some 500 years after the Trojan war was fought--the conflict may have occurred about 1250 B.C. The controversy surrounding authorship and method of composition is called the Homeric Question. See the introduction to your text book for more information.
II. In an epic poem, certain conventions usually appear:
1. invocation to the muse
2. statement of the theme usually in the form of a question
3. begins in medias res
4. numerous set speeches and considerable repetition
5. epic simile is a major figure of speech ("...as if..." or "...as when...")
6. repetition of epithets, phrases, tags, formulae etc.
7. flashback is frequently used
8. supernatural machinery interfere in mortal affairs--deus ex machina
9. comitatus code in its verbal and physical dimensions is stressed
10. single combat is stressed between champions
1-The Odyssey is not narrated in chronological order; rather Homer uses the device called in medias res or in the middle of things and tells the events out of sequence. The events take place about 40 days before the death of the suitors, despite the fact that Odysseus has been away for 20 years (10 in the war and 10 coming home)
A-Books 1 to 4 outline the adventures of Telemachus seeking his father. Such outlines his rite of passage from childhood to the adult perspective he will need to assist his father.
1. The ITHACA situation is told in the beginning with references to Odysseus by hint, and a contrasting family, that of Orestes, is presented.
2. The subplot is developed while Odysseus is pushed further into the background
3. Telemachus character is developed as he challenges his mother and the suitors and receives advice from a goddess
4. In Book 2, The assembly is important and within it, there is a FLASHBACK to the trick that Penelope
uses to deceive the suitors--this will also FORESHADOW something later.
5. Books 3 and 4 have a mini-Odyssey with Telemachus journey, and the 4th book ends with the plot of the suitors to kill Telemachus.
B-Books 5 to 8 detail the rescue of Odysseus from Calypso to his start of his narrative to the Phoenician that begins with Books 9 and end with Book 12:
1. There is an assembly that opens Book 5 that links it to Book 1, and we also meet Odysseus
2. Book 6 finds Odysseus at Nausicaas palace which contrasts in TONE from the previous book
3. Homer creates suspense by delaying the story of Odysseus for two more books--7 and 8.
C-Books 9 to 12 , the so called fairy-land adventures, include: 9--Cicones, Lotus Eaters, Cyclopes; 10--Aeolio, Laestrygonians, Circe; 11--the underworld; 12--Sirens, Scylla and Charybids, Helios -- are told in flashback to the Phaeacians. The nine year adventure into a fairy-land non-Greek world is told by FLASHBACK
D-Books 13 to 24 end narrate the events when Odysseus returns home to see his wife and deal with the suitors.
1. These books finish the narrative in chronological order, and use the DISGUISE MOTIF--a theme in The Odyssey is 'appearance vs. reality.'
2. There are several key dramatic events in these books that constitute a series of revelations...
a. Odysseys reveals himself to his son.....................Book 16
b. He is accidentally recognized............................. Book 19
c. He declares himself to two servants................. . Book 21
d. He identifies himself to his enemies.....................Book 22
e.Odysseus reveals himself to his wife................... Book 23
f. Odysseus reveals himself to his father..................Book 24
3. If the story were told in normal time order, we would be begin with 9 until 12, and then go to books 1 to 4 in which Odysseus is not present. These are called the Telemachy, named after the son of Odysseus who calls an assembly in Ithaca, tries to deal with the suitors, reprimands his mother, and is told by Athena to go to Pylos and Sparta in search of his father. Books 1 to 4 parallel the event in Book 5.
4. Book 12 ends the flashback adventures, and the action of Book 13 when Odysseus finishes his flashback (Books 9 -12) overlap with Book 4. In 13, Odysseus goes to Ithaca and in 4, in Ithaca, the suitors plan to kill Telemachus.
5. While Odysseus is with Calypso, Book 5, Telemachus has problems with the suitors, Books 1-4. When we meet Odysseus in Book 5, the action shifts from his sons problems (Books 1-4) to his own.
6. Book 13 to the end of the poem moves in straight time order.
7. Time order by Book:
|Telemachus adventures from hostility of suitors to leaving with Athena to find father
| Odysseus on Calypsos island to the rescue by the Phoenicians
| Flashback adventures of Odysseus from leaving Troy until imprisoned by Calypso on her island, Ogygia
|Odysseus at the end of Book 5 until taken to Ithaca by the Phonecian--revenge on suitors||13-24|
8. THE FOLLOWING IS WHAT HOMER COULD HAVE DONE RATHER THAN USE THE ABOVE STRUCTURE:
The events in The Odyssey occur over a ten-year period. Homer could have related the events chronologically. Thus, he would begin at the beginning, with the fall of Troy, when Odysseus and his fleet sail for home. Then he would describe in detail the storms, monsters, troubles with the crew, and desires of seductive women that keep Odysseus among the missing for ten years. Finally, the gods would decide Odysseus has suffered enough for his mistakes, that now the goddess Calypso must release him, and he would be thrown up on the beach of Scheria and taken by the Phaeacians to his native Ithaca. There he would meet secretly with his son Telemachus, who has just made a name for himself by undertaking a search for his father. Together they would plot the destruction of the hundred-odd suitors while urging Queen Penelope to give King Odysseus up for lost, to choose one of than as her new husband--have been scandalously exploiting Odysseus' wealth.
9. The question is why Homer changes the order, making the narrative seem confusing...
Homer wishes to create suspense--we do not see Odysseus until some 2000 lines into the poem
This technique enables the author to use flashback and foreshadowing simultaneously--so we can move back and forth in time
Homer is also able to create a sub-plot in which the Ithaca story is meshed with the adventures of Odysseus in getting home
THE ODYSSEY: THEMATIC ELEMENTS
BOOK I- KEY POINTS:
ALL OF THE SURVIVORS OF THE TROJAN WAR HAVE RETURNED HOME EXCEPT ODYSSEUS WHO IS BEING HELD BY CALYPSO FOR HAVING ANGERED POSEIDON. . ATHENA ADVISES TELEMACHUS TO SEARCH FOR HIS FATHER.
"ZEUS...WHAT A LAMENTABLE THING IT IS THAT MEN SHOULD BLAME THE GODS AND REGARD US AS THE SOURCE OF THEIR TROUBLES, WHEN IT IS THEIR OWN WICKEDNESS THAT BRINGS THEM SUFFERING WORSE THAN ANY WHICH DESTINY ALLOTS THEM.
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE ISSUE BEING DEBATED HERE, AND WHERE DID WE SEE IT BEFORE?
BOOK II-KEY POINTS:
AT ITHACA, THE HOME OF ODYSSEUS, WE LEARN THAT THE SUITORS HAVE BEEN TAKING OVER HIS HOME WANTING TO MARRY PENELOPE, WIFE OF ODYSSEUS.
AFTER LISTENING TO TELEMACHUS COMPLAINT ABOUT WHAT THE SUITORS ARE DOING, ZEUS SAYS, AS THOUGH IN ANSWER TO HIS WORDS, ZEUS...URGED TWO EAGLES IN FLIGHT FROM THE MOUNTAIN TOP...AS SOON AS THEY WERE DIRECTLY OVER [THE SUITORS]...THEY GLANCED DOWN AT THE FACES OF THE CROWD WITH LOOKS FOREBODING DEATH...THEY RIPPED EACH OTHERS CHEEKS AND NECKS....
QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU THINK THE PROPHECY MEANS?
BOOK III-KEY POINTS:
TELEMACHUS OBEYING ATHENA ARRIVES AT THE PALACE OF NESTOR AT PYLOS LOOKING FOR HIS FATHER; HE IS ADVISED TO GO TO SPARTA.
TELEMACHUS SAYS, "IF THE GODS WOULD ONLY GIVE ME STRENGTH TO COPE WITH THE INSUFFERABLE INSOLENCE OF MY MOTHERS SUITORS...BUT FATE HAS NO SUCH HAPPINESS IN STORE FOR ME...I HAVE TO GRIN AND BEAR THINGS AS THEY ARE"
ATHENA REPLIES,"WHAT A THING TO SAY...I WOULD RATHER LIVE THOUGH UNTOLD HARDSHIPS TO GET HOME IN THE END AND SEE THAT HAPPY DAY, THAN COME BACK AND DIE AT MY OWN HEARTH...IT IS OUR COMMON LOT TO DIE, AND THE GODS THEMSELVES CANNOT RESCUE EVEN ONE THE LOVE, WHEN DEATH COMES THAT STRETCHES ALL MEN OUT LAYS ITS DREAD HAND UPON HIM"
QUESTION: WHAT IS THE GOD-MAN RELATIONSHIP?
BOOK IV-KEY POINTS:
WE FIND TELEMACHUS AT SPARTA, AND WE MEET HELEN OF TROY WHO IS NEVER DESCRIBED. WHY? WE FURTHER LEARN IN A FLASHBACK ABOUT ODYSSEUS AND THE TROJAN HORSE. IN FLASHBACK TO ITHACA, THE SUITORS PLOT TO KILL TO KILL TELEMACHUS, WHO WILL RETURN IN BOOK XV.
ANTINOUS SAYS, "WITH ALL OF US AGAINST TELEMACHUS, THE YOUNG PUPPY CALMLY SETS OUT, AFTER PICKING THE BEST MEN IN THE PLACE...THAT LAD IS GOING TO GIVE US TROUBLE UNLESS THE GODS ARE KIND TO US AND CLIP HIS WINGS...GIVE ME A FAST SHIP...AND ILL CATCH HIM...AND A GRIM ENDING THERE WILL BE TO THIS SEA TRIP OF HIS IN SEARCH OF HIS FATHER"
QUESTION: RELATE THIS PASSAGE TO ANOTHER ONE YOU SAW, AND IN SO DOING, DEFINE HOMERIC IRONY.
BOOKS V TO VIII - KEY POINTS
THESE BOOKS TELL OF ODYSSEUS ON CALYPSOS ISLAND, OGYGIA, HIS DEPARTURE AND ARRIVAL AT THE PHAEACIANS. NOTE THAT THESE EVENTS ARE
CONCURRENT WITH WHAT WE HAVE JUST SEEN IN 1-IV. THE POINT OF VIEW IS STILL OMNISCIENT NARRATOR
KEY QUOTE EXERCISE:
LOCATE AND EXPLICATE THE KEY QUOTE HERE, REGARDING THE CHOICE ODYSSEUS MUST MAKE. WHAT DOES HE CHOOSE AND WHY?
BOOKS V-VIII-KEY POINTS:
ATHENA REMINDS ZEUS OF ODYSSEUS CAPTIVITY CALYPSO OBEYS ZEUS WILL TO RELEASE ODYSSEUS POSEIDON CAUSES A STORM THAT WRECKS ODYSSEUS
SHIP (RECALL BOOK I). ODYSSEUS IS RESCUED BY THE PHAEACIANS, AND LISTENS BY WAY OF FLASHBACK, TO THE COURT POET, DEMODOCUS TELL OF THE STORY OF TROY. WHY IN AN ORAL CULTURE WOULD THIS PERSPECTIVE BE ESSENTIAL.
"...LET OUR GLORIOUS BARD DEMODOCUS BE SUMMONED...FOR NO OTHER SINGER HAS HIS HEAVENLY GIFT OF DELIGHTING OUR EARS...THE Minstrels SONG CAUSED ODYSSEUS TO LIFT HIS PURPLE MANTLE WITH HIS STUDY HANDS AND DRAW IT DOWN OVER HIS HEAD TO HIDE HIS HANDSOME FACE, FOR HE WAS ASHAMED TO BE CAUGHT WEEPING BY THE PHAEACIANS"
QUESTION: WHAT DOES THIS TELL US ABOUT HOMERIC COMPOSITION?
THE BARD ALSO SINGS OF THE FALL OF TROY AND THE PART THAT ODYSSEUS PLAYED IN THE USE OF THE HORSE.
ODYSSEUS BROKE DOWN... AND HIS CHEEKS WERE WET WITH TEARS. HE WEPT AS A WOMAN WEEPS WHEN SHE THROWS HER ARMS AROUND THE BODY OF HER BELOVED HUSBAND, FALLEN IN BATTLE BEFORE HIS CITY AND COMRADES, FIGHTING TO SAVE HIS HOME TOWN, AND CHILDREN FROM DISASTER. SHE HAS FOUND HIM GASPING IN THE THROES OF DEATH; SHE CLINGS TO HIM AND LIFTS HER VOICE IN LAMENTATION...BUT THE ENEMY COMES UP AND THEY LEAD HER OFF TO A LIFE OF SLAVERY AND MISERABLE TOIL"
QUESTION: WHAT IS THIS DEVICE OF STYLE CALLED, AND WHY DOES HOMER USE IT? NOTE THAT THE PHAEACIANS WANT TO KNOW ODYSSEUS STORY, BECAUSE TO THIS POINT, HE HAS NOT REVEALED HIS NAME OR MUCH OF HIS PERSONAL STORY.
EXERCISES FOR THE SUBSEQUENT BOOKS:
FOR THE SUBSEQUENT BOOKS, PROVIDE INSTANCES
SUPPORTING THE FOLLOWING THEMES:
1--archetype -- the universal pattern: The Odyssey is the archetype of the____________
13--explanation of the "lies" Odysseus tells in the following books.
NOTE ADDITIONALLY THE FOLLOWING:
BOOK IX--LOTUS EATERS AND CYCLOPS--ANGERING OF POSEIDON: WHAT IS THE 'SIN' OF ODYSSEUS? WHAT WERE ITS CONSEQUENCES? NOTE THAT LATER, SOPHOCLES WILL DRAMATIZE ITS EFFECT IN OEDIPUS.
BOOK X--THE WIND AND CIRCE-- IN LOTR, TOLKIEN REGARDS FAIRE AS PERILOUS--EXCEEDING LIMITS IMPOSED BY DIVINE AUTHORITY, FROM THE GODS OR GOD, BREEDS DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES, SUCH AS PIPPIN LOOKING INTO THE PALANTIR. FOR TOLKIEN, THOUGH, FROM EVIL COMES GOOD. DOES THAT HAPPEN IN THIS BOOK? WILL GOOD COME FROM WHAT THE CREW DOES? WHAT DOES THE TURNING OF THE CREW INTO SWINE DRAMATIZE THAT LATER WRITERS AND PHILOSOPHERS WILL OUTLINE PHILOSOPHICALLY. CONSIDER A PLATONIC APPLICATION:
BOOK XI-DESCENT TO THE UNDERWORLD--HADES. THE SHADOW ARCHETYPE AS DESCRIBED BY JUNG FINDS EXPRESSION HERE AND IN THE POPULAR CULTURE FROM STAR WARS TO LORD OF THE RINGS. CONRAD'S HEART OF DARKNESS OFFERS A PROFOUND COMMENTARY.
BOOK XII--SIRENS / SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS--TAKES US TO BOOK V AGAIN. ONCE AGAIN, HUBRIS MAY BE INVOLVED. DR. FREITAS NOTES THAT PASSIONS OR DESIRES HAVE BEEN OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH EVIL. DOES HOMER AGREE HERE? IN TERMS OF THE MIMETIC NATURE OF MYTH, WHAT DOE SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS REPRESENT? DOES ODYSSEUS ACKNOWLEDGE CULPABILITY FOR THE FATE OF HIS CREW?
BOOK XIII-- THIS BOOK DETAILS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN ODYSSEUS LANDS AT HOME TO DEAL WITH THE SUITORS: LIE ONE. IDENTIFY THE SO-CALLED LIES HE TELLS. WHY? ARE THEY MORALLY JUSTIFIED ACCORDING TO THE MORES OF THE DAY. LATER, PLATO WILL SPEAK IN THE REPUBLIC, OF THE NOBLE LIE OR MAGNIFICENT MYTH. ARE THESE THE ETHICAL ANCESTORS? THE GOD-MAN RELATIONSHIP IS ESSENTIAL HERE. THROUGHTOUT THE ODYSSEY, SUCH HAS BEEN A MAJOR THEME. HOW DOES ATHENA BEHAVE? WOULD WE ACCEPT SUCH A RELATIONSHIP TODAY?
BOOK XIV--MEETING WITH EUMAEUS, HIS FAITHFUL SERVANT--LIE TWO. NOTE THAT A FEATURE OF HOMER IN BOTH EPICS IS TO FOCUS ON THE PLIGHT OF THE VICTIMS OF WAR AND TRAGEDY, FORESHADOWING THE PLIGHT OF JOB AS COMMON MAN, DEMANDING ANSWERS THAT THE GODS MAY NOT PROVIDE. RECALL ELPENOR. DOES HOMER ENDORSE FAMILY VALUES? IF SO, DO WE NEED TO RECONSIDER WHAT THE ODYSSEY MAY REALLY BE ABOUT?
BOOK XV--RETURN OF TELEMACHUS. WHICH OF THE JUNG ARCHETYPES IS DRAMATIZED IN THIS BOOK? WHAT RITE IS BEING EXAMINED? IS THERE ANY IRONY IN TERMS OF WHAT IS ABOUT TO HAPPEN?
BOOK XVI--FATHER AND SON. THERE IS CRITICAL OPINION THAT HOMER, EMPLOYING DRAMATIC IRONY, OFFERED ODYSSEUS A CHANCE TO TRANSCEND THE MORES OF HIS CULTURE WHICH HE MAY HAVE NOT SUCCEEDED IN DOING. DO YOU AGREE? HEROES, AS HAS BEEN NOTED BY CRITICS, EXIST OFTEN IN 'SPLENDID ISOLATION,' AS DID ACHILLES WHEN IN BOOK IX, OF THE ILIAD, HE REJECTS THE EMBASSY'S OFFERINGS. DOES ODYSSEUS HAVE A SIMILAR CHOICE?
BOOK XVII--ODYSSEUS AT HOME--LIE THREE. CERTAINLY TWO MOTIFS DOMINATE: TEST THEOLOGY AND APPEARANCE VS. REALITY. WHY THE TEST? WHO IS TESTING? HAS ODYSSEUS' INTERACTIONS WITH ATHENA PREPARED HIM FOR THIS MOMENT? DOES HOMER'S OMNISCIENT PERSPECTIVE TELL US ANYTHING THE CHARACTERS DO NOT FULLY KNOW? IF GREAT WRITERS PRACTICE CLAIRVOYANCE, WHAT DOES HOMER KNOW?
BOOK XVIII--ODYSSEUS AND IROS, THE BEGGAR, AND PENELOPE--LIE FOUR. CURRENTLY, LITERATURE HAS FACED CRITIQUE FOR MISOGYNISTIC OVERTONES. CAN WOMEN HAVE AN AUTHENTIC VOICE IN A MALE ETHOS? EPICS FROM BEOWULF TO LORD OF THE RINGS HAVE BEEN SO STUDIED: CONSIDER FOR EXAMPLE EOWYN IN LOTR. STUDY ALSO BOOK VI OF THE ILIAD, REGARDING HOMER AND THE WOMEN IN HIS LIFE. HOW BY COMPARISON WOULD YOU EVALUATE PENELOPE? IF WE ARGUE THAT ODYSSEUS HAS HIS SEXUAL ADVENTURES WHILE PERHAPS WONDERING ABOUT AND TESTING HIS WIFE'S FIDELITY,. DO WE FIND A MALE-ORIENTATED MORAL CODE? WHAT QUALITIES DOES PENELOPE HAVE OTHER THAN HER SEXUALITY?
BOOK XIX--ODYSSEUS & EURYCELIA (NURSE)-- LIE FIVE. DO WE AGAIN HAVE TEST THEOLOGY, AND AT WHOSE INSTIGATION? IS THIS SIMPLY TO BE A MATTER OF MALE PROWESS? DOES HOMER DEMAND A DECONSTRUCTION OF HUBRIS?
BOOK XX--NOTICE HOW HOMER'S USE OF DRAMATIC IRONY FORESHADOWS THE DEATH OF THE SUITORS.
BOOKS XXI TO XXII--SLAUGHTER OF SUITORS. DOES HOMER DRAMATIZE THAT MIGHT MAKES RIGHT? DO THE EVENTS LEADING TO THESE BOOKS MAKE THE CONFLICT INEVITABLE IN TERMS OF THE MORES OF GREEK CULTURE? IF THERE IS NO DOUBT ABOUT ODYSSEUS' PHYSICAL PROWESS, DO WE FEEL THE SAME ABOUT HIM INTELLECTUALLY AND MORALLY? RECALL THAT HIS TAG IS 'CRAFY ODYSSEUS' OR 'ODYSSEUS OF THE MANY DESIGNS'. THE THREE ELEMENTS OF PLATO'S SOUL SEEM TO BE EVIDENCED. ARE THEY PROPERLY BALANCED, AND DOES HOMER THINK SO?
BOOK XXIII--THE TESTING OF ODYSSEUS? DOES THIS CHAPTER VINDICATE HOMER AS A FEMINIST? IS ODYSSEUS ANGERED AT HIS WIFE'S TEST? SHOULD HE BE? IS THERE A DOUBLE STANDARD HERE?
BOOK XXIV--HOW DOES THE POEM END? IS THERE ANOTHER LIE TOLD? WHY CANNOT ODYSSEUS REMAIN AT HOME? DO YOU REGARD HIM AS HEROIC ACCORDING TO THE HONOR CODE OF THE DAY?