A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey

By Irene J. F. De Jong | Go to book overview

BOOK ELEVEN

This book contains only one adventure, the one described in the greatest detail: Odysseus' descent into the Underworld.1 A mortal visiting the Underworld is an epic theme;2 cf. 11.623–6 and Il. 8.366–9 (Heracles). The Odyssey contains a second 'Underworld' scene in 24.1–204, when the ghosts of the dead Suitors arrive in Hades. Yet another confrontation between the living and the dead is found in Il. 23.65–108, when Patroclus' ghost visits Achilles in a dream. There is virtually no description of Hades here. But then Odysseus does not really enter Hades: the ghosts come up to where he is, at the entrance. From 568 onwards Odysseus does describe some of the illustrious inhabitants of Hades in situ, but the suggestion is still that he is observing them from where he stands; cf. 563–4n.

The Nekuia occupies a pivotal place, both in the Apologue (cf. Introduction to 9) and in the Odyssey : Odysseus is confronted with his past and his future, with Ithaca and Troy, with his family and his comrades in arms. Whereas the Telemachy showed us his family's longing for Odysseus, the Nekuia reveals Odysseus' longing for his family. Having shared both perspectives, the narratees are looking forward to seeing the two parties reunited in the second half of the Odyssey. This episode also continues the theme of the comparison of Odysseus' nostos with those of the other Greek veterans of the Trojan War (cf. Introduction to 1), in the form of meetings with the ghosts of Achilles and Agamemnon. Thus the visit far surpasses the function which Circe sketched out for it: to consult Tiresias (10.538–40). In like manner, Menelaus' meeting with Proteus in 4.351–586 brings far

____________________
1
Van der Valk (1935), Büchner (1937), Clarke (1967: 58–65), Bremer (1975), Clark (1978a: 37–78), Matthiessen (1988), Crane (1988: 87–134), and Doherty (1995a: 93–121).
2
Bowra (1952: 78–84).

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A Narratological Commentary on the Odyssey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • Glossary xi
  • Commentary 1
  • Book One 3
  • Book Two 44
  • Book Three 68
  • Book Four 89
  • Book Five 123
  • Book Six 149
  • Book Seven 170
  • Book Eight 190
  • Book Nine 221
  • Book Ten 250
  • Book Eleven 271
  • Book Twelve 296
  • Book Thirteen 313
  • Book Fourteen 340
  • Book Fifteen 362
  • Book Sixteen 385
  • Book Seventeen 407
  • Book Eighteen 437
  • Book Nineteen 458
  • Book Twenty 483
  • Book Twenty-One 504
  • Book Twenty-Two 524
  • Book Twenty-Three 545
  • Book Twenty-Four 565
  • Appendix A - The Fabula of the Odyssey 587
  • Appendix B - The Continuity of Time Principle and the 'Interlace' Technique 589
  • Appendix C - The Piecemeal Distribution of the Nostoi of Odysseus, Agamemnon, and Menelaus 591
  • Appendix D - 'storm' Scenes in the Odyssey 594
  • Appendix E - The Recurrent Elements of Odysseus' Lying Tales 596
  • Appendix F - The 'storeroom' Type-Scene 598
  • Bibliography 599
  • Index of Greek Words 622
  • Index of Subjects 624
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