and fits together. . . . But this whole must always be put outside the
text, for the text cannot at once contain it and rely on it as basis and
ground." Paradoxically, in order to evoke a totality, the poem must
exclude certain voices. In the epic genre, where plots are traditionally
focalized by masculine heroes and narrators, it makes a kind of poetic
sense that the excluded voice that guarantees wholeness should be
feminine. Yet, as Ford wisely adds, the poet's evocation of excluded
voices, however brief, is an opening that makes interpretation possible.
399 For me, it is this opening -- this space in which a female voice
claims the authority of an epic poet -- that makes for the enduring
power of the Sirens episode.
I am grateful to Marylin Arthur Katz, Beth Cohen, and the anonymous
readers for their helpful comments on earlier drafts of this paper. I would like
to dedicate the paper to the memory of A. K. Ramanujan, poet, scholar, and
See Buitron and Cohen, 1992, 14, 109-11.
Allen, 1917, 3: 218-19 (Book 12, lines 165-200). The total comes to
forty-seven lines if Odysseus' introductory speech (12.154-64) is included
and to sixty-three if Kirke's warning speech (12.39-54) is added.
See Schein, Chapter 2, this volume.
Among other scholars who have taken related positions are Felson-Rubin, 1987 and 1993, and Murnaghan, 1986.
This approach is represented by, e.g., Roscher IV, 602-39; Buschor, 1944; and Page, 1973.
Buitron and Cohen, 1992, 109.
Compare Brilliant's observation that "the hybrid monster exemplifies
the very fact of the transgression of boundaries" (Chapter 9, this volume).
An explicit comparison between a Muse and a Siren is first preserved in a fragment of the poet Alkman (frag. 30, Campbell, 1988, quoted by Aelius Aristides, Orations 28.51). In the modern critical literature, the comparison has been explored at length by Pucci (see n. 18, this chapter), and Kahn, 1980 and 1982. See also Segal, 1983, esp. 400; and Thalmann, 1984, 129
and 150. Buschor, 1944, also saw a resemblance between Muses and Sirens,
but he did not explore the implications of this resemblance for the status of
This is not to deny the possibility, carefully outlined by Svenbro, 1976, 46-73, that the source of poetic authority that the Muse represents was
understood quite differently by Hesiod and the poets of the Homeric tradition.