Mythology: From Ancient to Post-Modern

By Jürgen Kleist; Bruce A. Butterfield | Go to book overview
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Peter Hertz-Ohmes


If Gods Were Hormones: Fractals, Catastrophes and Other Good Things in Homer's Odyssey

This paper is at best schematic. It does not pretend to interpret the Odyssey. But it will look at bases for interpretation and ask questions about the process leading to interpretation. Finally it will ask whether interpretation as a final product is a good thing.

If gods were hormones! The title is of course a come-on. But it is also meant to jolt us into some realizations about the way we read. We read science in one way, literature in another. We seldom relate the two, yet we should. Unless we have been over-academized and too compartmentalized, we should realize that our scientific and our literary paradigms overlap. The humanities must include the sciences and vice versa, for as our mathematical and physical models of the world change, so do our understandings of social, literary, and political models.

The Copernican revolution certainly affected our religious views and made a new literature possible. Descartes, Newton, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, Riemann, Einstein, and Gödel have helped reshape literary and political models as much as have Dante, Shakespeare, Goethe, Freud, and Joyce.

I don't believe in reading the Odyssey the way an ancient Greek would listen to it. I want to relate the Odyssey to my present life. To do that I have to be able to adapt the Odyssey to postmodern ways of seeing the world. If that adaptation is not possible in some way, the Odyssey ceases to be a significant part of my heritage.

But not to worry! The Odyssey is very adaptable to different bases of interpretation. Let us review three or four generations of interpretive strategy (see Appendix A).

Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, in his influential book Die Heimkehr des Odysseus ( Berlin: 1927), searched behind the transmitted text for histori

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