The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey

By Beth Cohen | Go to book overview

own main values and most frequently expressed viewpoints are neither unproblematic nor the only ones possible. Rather, they are to some extent open to criticism and negative evaluation, and the poem itself is correspondingly open-ended, interpretively ambivalent or indeterminate, and irreducible to a single, straightforward, onedimensional reading. 17


Notes

I would like to thank Beth Cohen for inviting me to contribute to the present volume and for her constructive criticism and editorial advice. I also wish to thank Laura Slatkin for criticism and suggestions that improved this essay.

1
As might be expected, there are far more, and more varied, accounts of Odysseus' appearance than of any female character's. Cf. Griffith, 1985, 310. For perceptive interpretations of the poem's descriptions of Odysseus' physical appearances, see Bell, 1991 and Bassi, 1994.
2
On the "threat posed by female narrators," especially the Sirens and Helen, to Odysseus' "privileges as narrator and focalizer of his own story" and the ways in which "the epic narrator contains this threat," see Doherty, Chapter 5, this volume.
3
Cf. Nagler, 1977.
4
Male bards (aoidoi) such as Phemios and Demodokos sing epic poetry about heroes and gods; the subject matter of the songs sung by nonhuman female singers, apart from the Sirens, is not specified. This is the kind of singing I call "prototypically female."
5
Cf. Dimock, 1956, 56-57.
6
Cf. Vernant, 1982.
7
Güntert, 1919, argues that Ogygia is symbolically a Land of the Dead, Kalypso a goddess of the dead, and "concealment" the equivalent of death. Cf. Anderson, 1958; Vernant, 1982; Powell, 1977, 5, n. 13, who refers to the interpretation of Kalypso and "concealment" by Hölscher, 1939, 67; Porter, 1962, 3-5, who terms Ogygia "an Eden-like Hell, or a hellish Eden." For a recent discussion of Kalypso with a summary of relevant scholarship, see Crane, 1988, 15-29.
8
See Pucci, 1979; Segal, 1983.
9
The "soft meadows" (leimōnes malakoi) of Kalypso's Ogygia (5.72) have a similar connotation. Cf. Motte, 1973, 50-56, cited by Vernant, 1982, 15, n. 10.
10
In the later epic sequel to the Odyssey entitled the Telegony, Odysseus' further adventures included journeys, wars, a second marriage to Kallidike, Queen of the Thesprotians, and death at the hands of Telegonos, his son by Kirke. In the Odyssey itself, Odysseus tells Penelope of the "immeasurable toil there will still be in the future,/[toil] abundant and

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The Distaff Side: Representing the Female in Homer's Odyssey
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • Contributors xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • I - Introduction 1
  • 1 - The Odyssey, History, and Women 3
  • Notes 14
  • 2 - Female Representations and Interpreting the Odyssey 17
  • Notes 26
  • 3 - Between Skylla and Penelope: Female Characters of the Odyssey in Archaic and Classical Greek Art 29
  • Notes 50
  • II - Female Representations in the Odyssey 59
  • 4 - The Plan of Athena 61
  • Notes 78
  • 5 - Sirens, Muses, and Female Narrators in the Odyssey 81
  • Notes 89
  • 6 - Penelope as Moral Agent 93
  • Notes 109
  • 7 - Figuring Fidelity in Homer's Odyssey 117
  • Notes 146
  • III - Representations of Female Characters from the Odyssey in Ancient Art 153
  • 8 - Coming of Age in Phaiakia: The Meeting of Odysseus and Nausikaa 155
  • Notes 161
  • 9 - Kirke's Men: Swine and Sweethearts 165
  • Notes 173
  • 10 - Les Femmes Fatales: Skylla and the Sirens in Greek Art 175
  • Notes 183
  • 11 - The Intimate Act of Footwashing: Odyssey 19 185
  • Notes 196
  • References 201
  • Index 219
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