The Odyssey Re-Formed

The Odyssey Re-Formed

The Odyssey Re-Formed

The Odyssey Re-Formed

Synopsis

Frederick Ahl and Hanna M. Roisman believe that contemporary readers who do not know ancient Greek can gain a sophisticated grasp of the Odyssey if they are aware of some of the issues that intrigue and puzzle the experts. They offer a challenging new reading of the epic which is directed to the general student of literature as well as to the classicist. The "Odyssey" Re-Formed offers a lively and detailed reading of the Odyssey, episode by episode, with particular attention paid to the manipulative power of its language and Homer's skill in using that power. The authors explore how myth is shaped for specific, rhetorical reasons and suggest ways in which the epic uses its audience's awareness of the varied pool of mythic traditions to give the Odyssey remarkable and subtle resonances that have profound poetic power.

Excerpt

This book came into being because two critics, beginning from different suppositions and working along different lines, found themselves reaching similar conclusions about the Odyssey and therefore decided to write together, rather than separately. After almost four years of collaboration, argument, and compromise, which yielded a work neither of us could have produced alone, it was no longer possible to determine who had come up with a particular idea or who had developed it first. There is a little of both of us in every sentence. While we have separately drawn on our previously published work, a comparison of the ideas shows how we have tempered and reshaped each other's thinking. We also became progressively more aware as we worked of how our approaches to the Odyssey had been conditioned both by our divergent, general cultural upbringings and by our specific scholarly backgrounds.

Influenced also by our constant need to teach the Odyssey in English translation as well as in the original, we have written with an eye for the general reader, whose knowledge of Homer is not based on a reading of the original Greek. Of course there are moments when a key word or phrase cannot be satisfactorily rendered by an English word or expression, or when a wordplay would require a substantial departure from the conventionally "literal" sense if we were to reproduce it in English. In such cases we cite the Greek text in transliterated form to make our point clearer. The translations, which are no more than quite literal and unliterary renditions of the Greek, are our own and are based on Thomas W. Allen's Oxford Classical Text (second edition, 1917).

We discuss the Odyssey more or less book by book--though we treat some passages in more detail than others, focusing particularly on instances in which the narrator or an internal speaker seems to be contra-

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